Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Jenifer Fallert
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
- What is your name? (last name optional)
- Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)
Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
- What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?
My brain injury survivor is my daughter, Jordan. She was one month away from her 24th birthday when she was struck by another car as she drove home from work.
- On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?
Jordan was in the ICU (intensive care unit) for about 25 days before she was transferred to a regular floor. Thirty days after her accident, she was transferred by ambulance to another hospital (Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Jordan was at Madonna until June 25. She was then discharged to home care. I was Jordan’s only visitor, along with her nurses who cared for her from the time of her admission. Even in the ICU, nurses aren’t able to attend to every need, so I did as much for Jordan as I could. I am Jordan’s primary caregiver, but my role has changed to more of an advisor. I was 47 at the time of Jordan’s accident.
- Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?
I had two other teenage children whom I was caring for at the time of Jordan’s accident.
- Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?
I was employed as the Director of Operations for a preschool at the time of Jordan’s accident. I took a six-month leave and worked part-time before deciding to stay home with Jordan full-time.
- Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?
Jordan was injured during COVID, so most of the time that she was in the hospital or rehab, I was the only one helping her.
- When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?
I provided as much care for Jordan as I possibly could. I started immediately after the accident.
- Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?
Jordan was in a coma for about 14 days and minimally conscious for about another month. While Jordan was in a coma or in her minimally conscious state, I did as much as I could to care for her. I read or crocheted a little to pass the time in the hospital and rehab. I was also dealing with insurance companies and the legal entities involved.
- Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?
Jordan received inpatient rehab at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. She received physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapies. She also did intensive outpatient therapy at Madonna for another six weeks before coming back home and doing outpatient therapy at SSM Rehab in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. I moved to Nebraska and lived in a home for caregivers on the grounds of the rehab facility. Once Jordan was released to outpatient therapy, she lived with me in Nebraska until we came home.
- What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?
When Jordan first came home from rehab, she required help with most of her ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). As time has gone on, she has been able to perform most of her ADLs on her own. She has short-term memory loss, so my role is helping to make sure that she remembers things and stays safe.
- How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life has changed a lot since I have become Jordan’s caregiver. I no longer work, and I spend most of my time with her at home. The thing is that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have always loved being with Jordan and spending time with her. My greatest joy is being a mother to all my daughters. I’ve gotten to help raise Jordan twice, and that is quite the gift!
- What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?
I miss the daughter whom I knew for 23 years, the relationship Jordan had with her sisters, and the innocence that we all had – the blissful unawareness that most people have that tragedy can strike at a moment’s notice.
- What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy getting to spend so much time with Jordan and helping her grow into the wonderful person that she is.
- What do you like least about brain injury?
The emotional and cognitive side of brain injury can be very draining and hard on family relationships.
- Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?
- Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Jordan’s accident, the legal trial, and COVID have had profound impacts on our family. (The other driver in Jordan’s accident was charged with second degree assault. He was driving 79 mph in a 45-mph zone and had a history of aggressive driving. I can’t describe how that feels. His act of violence on an innocent human will reverberate through our lives forever.)
- Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
We spend more time at home now. Social settings are hard on Jordan’s ability to communicate effectively, which makes her feel very frustrated.
- What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I don’t know what I hope to be doing in ten years. Even though it’s been over a year since Jordan’s brain injury, we are still in the early stages. I hope she is more healed.
- What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
When Jordan was in the hospital, the doctors and nurses would tell me that this is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. That is the truest statement. It takes years and years to heal from a brain injury. Time and patience are key.
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