Survivors SPEAK OUT! Shelley Taylor
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Grand Prairie, Texas, USA email@example.com
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had my brain injury on Valentine’s Day seven years ago. I was 45 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
Both I and my daughter, Taylor, were poisoned one night by carbon monoxide gas coming from an outside generator. We were fortunate to awaken and survive. Both of us have a brain injury as a result. (Donna’s note: Their horrific story will be published later on this blog under “Faces of Brain Injury.”)
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
The likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning was first evident to the Fire Chief when the detector showed very high levels of carbon monoxide near the house. I was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Eventually it was discovered that I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was taken to the Emergency Room at Methodist Hospital in Mansfield. I had stitches for a head wound (see story), and I was given a CT (computerized tomography) scan. A hyperbaric chamber at Methodist Dallas Medical Center was used to treat me for carbon monoxide poisoning.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?
Yes. I had occupational therapy.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have a problem breathing. I also have problems with balance, depth perception, and memory. I am plagued with migraines, vertigo, and light-sensitivity.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My daily life has changed, with issues in breathing, balance, light-sensitivity, depth perception, noise-sensitivity, and memory. Now I also have daily headaches. (I got a migraine on February 4th, and I have not gone a day pain-free.) Life is just different. I am who I am for a reason. I’m living God’s plan for me.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss being able to remember, wearing high heels, and pain-free days.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I try to live every day with a positive attitude. My daughter and I live with gratitude. We are very thankful that God saved us.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike coughing, falling, the light-sensitivity, the noise-sensitivity, and the memory issues. Many doctors don’t have experience with our type of injury. It’s frustrating.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Yes. My relationship with Christ.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I think my family offers me an abundant amount of grace on days when my head is killing me and I’m extremely nauseous. They know I need to rest my brain a lot in the calm and quiet.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I was an extrovert pre brain injury. Post brain injury, I’ve become an introvert. I love calm and quiet now.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I just finished writing a book, “With My Last Breath, I’d Say I Love You” – when your faith and hope slip, grace wins every time. I hope to find a publisher soon. Also, I’d love to speak and encourage others.
19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.
Early on, realize that you are here for a reason and make the most of each day. Our struggles are what make us stronger. Reach out to others and ask for help when necessary. Love yourself for who you are, not for what you aren’t.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
See my comments in the preceding question.
Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell, are contributing authors in “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer. Shelley and Taylor’s story is titled, “Our Story of Poisoning — and of Grace.” It can be found in Chapter 75 on page 299.
My story, “Nightmare in the Disability Lane,” can be found in Chapter 29 on page 114 of the same book, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer.
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI SPEAK OUT! Survivors Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
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