TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury’

Another Fork in the Road ~~~ Do You Know Someone with a Brain Injury? I Do!

Do You Know Someone with a Brain Injury? I Do!
presented
by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski 

Chances are you know someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI.) More than 1.7 million Americans each year sustain a brain injury.  I personally know five people who are living with some form of TBI. In fact, I’m living with one.

My husband, David, had his brain injury in 2005. A professor friend of ours from Brigham Young University has one. So do my nephew, an actor/director friend from my local community theater, and the husband of my friend, Judy.

A brain injury can occur in the blink of an eye. Brain injury is not discriminating. It cares not about color, race, or creed. It can happen to a child or an octogenarian and everyone in between. A child may fall off his bike or off her swing.  A teenager may meet up with a TBI on the soccer or football field or a gymnastic mat. Car and motorcycle accidents are common causes of traumatic brain injuries. An assault in a dark alley or domestic abuse in your home can result in brain injury too. One can even have a traumatic brain injury while exercising (e.g., while doing chin ups in the wee hours of the morning after doing Tai Chi while listening to Deuter or some other new age CD). David did!

Like snowflakes, no two brain injuries are the same. Each survivor is different too and each method of healing is unique to the person who is struggling to regain his or her former life. With a lot of hard work, patience, and persistence many survivors can enjoy a “new normal” life.

Check out this article, Facts About Traumatic Brain Injury, for more information.

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Surviviors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Craig J. Phillips . . . . . Survivor of Brain Injury

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Craig J. Phillips

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Craig J. Phillips
Survivor of Brain Injury

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Craig J, Phillips

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

My email is secondchancetolive1@yahoo.com.

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

August 11, 1967 at age 10

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Motor vehicle accident – We were in a Volkswagen Beetle that was hit by a woman driving a Cadillac. She lost control of her car, ran off the side of the road, hit a pole, came across her two lanes and a grass medium, and hit our car in the passing lane. I went up over my Dad’s bucket seat and hit the windshield, fracturing my left femur.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My father, who was driving.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

Hospitalization – I was not expected to live the night of the accident.  I was put into traction to set my femur. I was then placed into a full body – or Spica – cast for 5-6 months. With obvious external wounds, an invisible traumatic brain injury was not considered.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Yes. I remained in a coma for three weeks.

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?

In 1967, there was nothing in the way of brain injury rehabilitation. Once my external wounds healed, I was on my own to navigate life with the impact of right frontal lobe damage and a severe brain bruise. I attended two physical therapy appointments, but was then on my own to teach myself how to walk.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig — Learning to Walk Again by Not Giving Up (Part 3)

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I underwent two EEGs (electroencephalograms – given to detect electrical activity in the brain) and a battery of cognitive and psychosocial tests. The results showed that I probably would not succeed academically beyond high school. That conclusion was shared with my parents, but not with me. I grew up not knowing that my life was being impacted by the traumatic brain injury that I sustained when I was 10 years old. I had difficulty reading non-verbal cues and social nuances and learning sequences of information. I had to discover how I learn best and to accept myself. I am not my traumatic brain injury.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Better – I obtained my undergraduate degree in ten years, after attending two universities and one college and having four different majors. I obtained my graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling in three and a half years, after attending two graduate schools.

There were twenty years of getting and losing jobs. Twice, I had Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) evaluations. I was deemed to be unemployable by the DVR counselor after the second evaluation. Of my three applications for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), two were denied, but I was approved after the third application.

Nevertheless, I still wanted to contribute and use my gifts, talents, and abilities. I created Second Chance to Live on February 6, 2007 (secondchancetolive.org). I have written 1860 articles and made 413 video presentations and 10 eBooks. I have 30 slide show presentations, 33 posters, and other creations.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig – My Academic Path (Part 4)

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I had my TBI (traumatic brain injury) at the age of 10. I don’t remember my life before then.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy using my creativity in ways that work for me. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

It is as it is. I would like to have more of a social life. However, I accept that I do not have the skills to have more of a social life – so it is stressful for me.OIP-1

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

When I reached a point in my life when denying my reality became more painful than my need to deny my reality, I began to grieve my reality through the five stages that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross spoke about in her book, On Death and Dying. Once I moved through confronting my denial; experiencing anger for what I was powerless to change; trying to bargain my way out of what I could not change; and experiencing depression, I was able to increase my acceptance. As I grew in acceptance of what I could not change, I was open to discovering possibilities. Possibilities through choices. Choices that helped me to get into action. Action that helped me to create hope in my life.

For details, see my article:

15. Finding Craig – My Brain Injury Awareness (Part 5)

Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. As I accepted my reality, I stopped needing to convince other people of my reality. People cannot give what they do not possess. For people to accept my reality would mean that they would have to feel feelings and make changes – feelings and changes that they may not know how to feel or want to feel. Changes that they may not know how to make or want to. As I stopped trying to change people, I had more peace in my life.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I enjoy my solitude and my freedom to create through Second Chance to Live. I have a small circle of friends.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I am my own case manager. As a rehabilitation counselor, I fully understand what a counselor does. A counselor is not in the position of having to do for another person what that person cannot do for himself or herself. As a counselor, what I seek to do is to teach and encourage the individual to fish – not provide fish, so that that individual will never go hungry again.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I am an author, advocate, keynote speaker, and a motivational coach. I created Second Chance to Live nearly fourteen years ago. I do not know what the future holds. I am preparing to be available to present at more conferences and organizational settings as a keynote speaker/workshop leader. I am doing the footwork – one day at a time. I am trusting the process, a loving God, and myself. More will be revealed with time. The pieces of the puzzle will come together at the right time and in the right order.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig – Making Sense of Brain Injury (Part 8)

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.

Pursue excellence, instead of being driven by perfectionism.

I have difficulties learning sequences of information. I have written an article that explains what has helped me with this information: Neuroplasticity, Small Successes and Learning/Relearning Skills and Skill Sets.

Craig J. Phillips 120. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Trust the process, a loving God, and yourself.

See that your circumstances are a way to build you up, not to keep you down.

See that you are not your traumatic brain injury or your disability.

See the disappointments and disillusionment that you experience as important parts of your process.

See how those events move you in the direction of your destiny.

Find ways to use what you can through your gifts, talents, and abilities.

Accept your inability to do some things because of your deficits and limitations. Stop berating yourself for your inability to do those things.

Live and explore outside of the box that society seeks to keep you in through dismissing, discounting, patronizing, minimization, and marginalization.

Love, accept, and celebrate who you are as an individual.

Break free from the denial system that keeps you feeling like a mistake. Stop identifying as a patient.

Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, have the wisdom to know the difference, and then be at peace with that difference.

See life as a process – a journey.

Realize that your job is to learn “how-to” from various ingredients and then combine what “you learned” together to bake various “cakes.”

Realize that there is no such thing as failure, only an opportunity to learn.

Realize that what occurs in your life is meant to set you up, not set you back.

Begin to live the “now” in life.

Struggle makes you stronger.

Avoid the comparison trap.

Share with other traumatic brain injury survivors that there is hope.

Realize that what happened to you is not as important as what you do with what happened to you.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

 

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . Rico Principe

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Rico Principe (survivor)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Rico Principe – Brain Injury Survivor

Rico Principe (survivor and advocate)

Don’t let my looks fool you. I have a laundry-list of deficits. Some are obvious, and some become obvious only to those who live with me. The brain aneurysm didn’t kill me, but it killed the “me that I was” and gave my family and my friends the “new me.”

The brain aneurysm turned my world upside down. I wasn’t even aware of brain aneurysms until I had the “worst headache of my life” in 2004. It gave me a 24/7-headache, occasional bouts with depression, aphasia, neurofatigue, forgetfulness, memory loss, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), sleeplessness, and loss of filter.  I also have a short fuse.

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It came unannounced, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the actions of my wife (Elvie). She was there and called 9-1-1 so I could be taken to the hospital as soon as possible.

I struggle with the “baggage” that comes with being a brain aneurysm survivor, but I chose not to be burdened by it.  Instead, I chose to be an advocate. I help run a Facebook group of brain aneurysm survivors with almost 11,000 members.

This is me. A survivor and an advocate.

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

Brain Injury Resources “I Give Up” Composed and Played by Elijah Bossenbroek

Brain Injury Resources …

“I Give Up”

Composed and Played by Elijah Bossenbroek

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

This is an amazing piece of piano music composed and played with breathtaking emotion by the young and upcoming (some say “genius”) pianist Elijah Bossenbroek. It’s Pianoa very moving piece, about which commenters have written “sad,” “uplifting,” and “inspiring.”  I can only assume that Bossenbroek has “triumphed” over an extremely sad part of his own life.

It is an appropriate piece for survivors of brain injury, who usually experience these emotions at one time or another. Listening to this piece gave me chills.

Never Give Up

 

 

 

Never Give Up!
Scream!
Yell!
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Move on…

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Kathleen Lynx
Survivor of Brain Injury

Kathleen Lynx (survivor) … I just had to crow. It’s been nine years post TBI (traumatic brain injury), and I was able to sew a pair of PJ pants. They were originally going to be capris, but after a few errors, I have sleep pants. I goofed on measuring and had to put in eight inches of side panels so they would fit, but I finished them. It’s the first item I have sewn that fits. Yeah!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

 

 

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

 

jennifer-stokely-survivor-052615

Jennifer Stokley – Survivor of Brain Injury

Jennifer Stokley (survivor) … I met a stranger at my door who was sent to do “bug home care” (no notice). I let him in to do his work. I asked questions and had him explain things I needed to misc_welcome2know. I have Severe Anxiety Disorder and huge panic attacks.  Strangers are a HUGE trigger; letting them into my home is even bigger! I handled it all – no anxiety; no nothing!

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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So, Whaddya Think? “Concussion” Now in Theaters

So, Whaddya Think?

“Concussion” Now in Theaters

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Note: This is our second opinion essay about Dr. Bennet Omalu and his research with brain trauma. The first was published on this blog on December 17th.)

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4The much-anticipated movie, Concussion (trailer), is making current and former players of American football, their families, parents, fans, and coaches think about what is really happening in a sport that has become a large part of American culture. The movie has the same goal as we in the brain-injury community have – greater awareness of the delicate Concussion Movie 2.jpgnature of the brain and the ramifications of brain damage. The movie was released on Christmas Day, but it has made much news before its release.

The movie, which unsurprisingly is not sanctioned by the National Football League (NFL), tells the true story of the Nigerian pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, and his discovery of the relationship of a neurodegenerative disease, which Dr. Omalu named “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE), and American football. Dr. Omalu studied the brain of Hall-of-Fame center, Mike Webster,

MikeWebsternfl

Mike Webster – Pittsburgh Steeler Pro Football Hall of Fame

who died at age 50 homeless and with dementia. As shown in the Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (available free online), the movie shows how the multibillion-dollar NFL didn’t want to hear of Dr. Omalu’s discovery. The league’s questionable committee on concussions immediately attacked Dr. Omalu. It is a classic “David-vs.-Goliath” story.

David & Goliath.jpg

David & Goliath

(Dr. Omalu said in his Frontline interview, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”) Former players have sued the NFL, arguing that the NFL knew of the dangers to the brain, but didn’t inform the players. In a class-action lawsuit, the NFL has recently settled for approximately $1 billion in medical expenses, but that settlement is being appealed by former players as inadequate.

Concussion Movie

Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist – discovered CTE with Actor, Will Smith

Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu in Concussion. Will Smith, a former football fan whose son played high school football, recently admitted that he has not watched a full game of football since he made this movie. Peter Landesman, the movie’s director, played football into his sophomore year of college, but, knowing what he knows now, he would not let his children play the game.

The movie is a “must-see.” (video)

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

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On The Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Radio . . . . . . . . “Another Fork in the Road” with Survivor & Caregiver, Sandra WIlliams

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 

with

Guest: Survivor and Caregiver, Sandra Williams

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1Sandra William’s was thrust into the role of brain injury survivor and caregiver when her whole family was involved in a motor accident with a drunk driver with multiple DUIs. Sandra spoke about the trials her family endured and still endures because of the negligence of a stranger.

As two teachers, Sandra and I delved into how schools 12200687_895719387130278_18176772_ncan better help students who are identified with brain injury or special needs. Federally mandated, 504 Plans and Individual Education Plans (IEP) were discussed.

If you missed this show with Sandra Williams on “Another Fork in the Road” on November 15th, 2015 don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Survivor and Caregiver, Sandra Williams

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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On The Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” Daily Living & Organizational Skills

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 

with

Panelists: Survivor, Lisa Dryer and Caregiver, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

Topic: Daily Living & Organizational Skills

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1Living day by day with a brain injury can be an utmost challenge. Juggling fatigue, memory loss, or dealing with concentration issues, to name just a few, can be extremely overwhelming. So how does one overcome these problems while trying to get through the day? These are some of the topics that Lisa Dryer, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, and I discussed. Some really good ideas came out of the discussion. Tips that be easily utilized to help folks make their lives a bit more simple and controlled. I hope you will listen to the show to find out.

Dryer, Lisa SurvivorPanelist and survivor, Lisa Dryer, talked about having structure in her life, which helps her to stay more organized. Structure adds a balance that helps to make things more predictable. A predictable life is easier to maneuver through.

03 Jeannette Davidson-Mayer 110115Panelist and caregiver, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, elaborated on her “Central Command Center,” which is located in her kitchen. She said this method worked best for her husband, DeWayne, who received five brain injuries while serving in Iraq. Post-It notes and whiteboards help to keep Jeannette’s family more organized.

If you missed this show, “Daily Living & Organizational Skills” on “Another Fork in the Road” with Lisa Dryer and caregiver, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer on November 1, 2015 don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with panelists: survivor, Lisa Dryer and caregiver, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer on “Daily Living & Organizational Skills”

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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger Jeff Sebell

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger Jeff Sebell

TBI Disconnection

 

Boy Blogger th

Of all the behaviors and peculiarities I have adopted since my brain injury, one of the most infuriating is how disconnected I can become. Although I have improved substantially over time and have learned how to deal with them better when they happen, I have moments when I am just not there.

When I say “not there,” what I mean is that I am “not present” to what is going on. The end result of “not being present” is that, instead of living my life, I watch as others participate in theirs, or I stay strangely passive as things happen around me. It is the damnedest thing to be right in the middle of what is happening and yet to be so far away mentally and emotionally. Right then, I have this urge to call the phone company and tell them I have a bad connection – could they send a repairman right away?

Ah, if it were only that easy.

When I am in one of those states of either disconnection or passivity, I become accepting of what others say or do, and I nod a lot and I shrug. Afterwards, with the dust still settling around me, as I begin to recover my wits and I reflect on what just happened, I always wish I could live that little piece of life over again – this time with the wherewithal to participate or to make my wishes known.

Finding myself in a state of disconnection from what is happening around me is something that happens all too often. I feel as though I am a lamp that has had its electric cord disconnected from the socket. Where I was once shining brightly on the various conversations, activities and people in the room, I have had my juice turned off, and I am stuck in the corner as an afterthought. People I had once been speaking with move me to another corner and complain about my not being plugged in.

Being disconnected can be something that happens to me in a social situation, or it could happen to me when I’m trying to do something or accomplish something on my own. I’ve gotten used to having it happen to me in social situations, and I have gotten pretty good at being able to avert or mitigate those instances, mostly by using my nonsensical sense of humor – perfect for that kind of situation.

What throws me off most is when I am trying to perform some task and I become disconnected from a situation. This usually happens when I get confused or overwhelmed, or when I’ve done something a bunch of times and now can’t remember how to do it. Nothing seems to make any sense, and I sit dumbfounded, unable to put two and two together. Having the ability to put two and two together is a skill that enables you to understand why things happen the way they do, how one thing can lead to another, etc., and it’s important when figuring out problems on your own. Adding two and two is so easy, and that’s what makes it so infuriating when I just can’t do it – sort of like word-find problems.

You would think that by the time I reached 58 years old, I would be able to put two and two together in my sleep, but I’m not always able to. What could be causing me to be so removed from what is going on? Is it something I can control, or is that the normal way my brain behaves now?

The answer for me seems to be, as with so many other TBI-related issues, preparation. I do my best to prepare for situations that I know I’m going to find myself in, and my preparations include taking a futurist’s approach to what I am about to do by planning ahead for different conversations, outcomes and eventualities.

It takes work to not be disconnected. In addition to preparation work and getting yourself ready for different eventualities, there is the work it takes to be present in situational disconnects – doing your best to stay in the present by controlling your thoughts and emotions. One kind of work we haven’t talked about is the work it takes after a disconnection happens. Let’s face it – they are going to happen, so how do you get a grip on yourself when things seem to be slipping from you?

Sebell, Jeff, Photo CAQBARA5

Jeff Sebell

It is both easy and tempting to get on your own case and blame yourself or laugh at yourself for something you just did or didn’t do, but it is work to just accept it as reality and move on. The only way you’re going to learn not to do things is to do the following: first, accept the reality of where you are, and second, move forward with dignity and a clear head.

You can read more about Jeff on his blog at TBI Survivor: Support for TBISurvivors. You can follow him on Twitter or at @ttbisurvivor.

Thank you, Jeff.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

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The Care Factor

Loving someone with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog With Free TBI Information

Brain Injury Blog and Helpful Articles

Montclair Write Group

Writing Support Group

Brain Injury Support Group of Duluth-Extension

Brain Injury Information and SUPPORT

Women Worldwide Network

Women around the world share their incredible stories

Brain Aneurysm Global Insight

Brain Aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhaging, hemorrhage stroke

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