I learned that life can be good, even with a TBI. My injury changed my life and cost me much. Yet I enjoy life now more than ever! - Lynda McGuirk, Author, Survive & Thrive
I wrote my book to provide a positive voice for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivors and their caretakers from a fellow TBI survivor. It is the book that I wanted, but did not exist. I found plenty of books by TBI survivors that describe the problems. I do not deny the problems, but wanted a positive voice. Survival is a good thing!
You mentioned in your book that a healthy lifestyle speeded up your recovery. In what ways?
I’m no doctor, but know that the brain is a muscle. Exercise increases blood flow to our muscles, including the brain. My brain had a fresh lesion. I am sure that increased circulation via exercise helped my body respond to the wound. Health & fitness is an excellent resource to give the body, especially as it heals from a near-fatal wound.
The other muscles in my body were atrophied from being in the coma for several weeks. It takes more than a few physical therapy sessions a week to build those muscles back up. I needed all the strength I could get to rebuild my life over the several years it takes to recover from a TBI. Exercise built up my strength.
What things, people, places etc have you had to discard in order to make room for a new life?
As far as friends and family, there was a huge cost. Many people are afraid of the idea of a brain injury. On top of that, I developed post-traumatic epilepsy. My epileptologist calls epilepsy “the last taboo.” He’s right. That really freaks people out. Many people in my life just disappeared. In addition to the people who dropped out of my life on their own. I had to let go of many. This was for all kinds of reasons. Some people would get upset with me if I insisted on sharing the challenges that I faced. Anyone who could not even listen to what I faced was not someone I needed in my life.
Then there were the people who took advantage of my vulnerability. They come off as friends, but are really just people who want someone to latch on to. Once I realized how much of a liability those people were, I let them go, too.
What is the No 1 piece of advice you would give to a person who's friend or family member suffered a brain injury?
Listen to them. That is how you will find out what they need and how you can help. You’ll find out that our needs and concerns are actually quite simple. Our basic needs are threatened by this invisible injury. Listening to a friend or loved one with a brain injury will help you understand what they face, what they need and how you can help in very simple ways. They will be incredibly grateful and it will make things easier for everyone.
What do you attribute your resilience to?
First and foremost, that I have always lived a healthy lifestyle. Like I said, I believe that health and fitness benefits every aspect of life. It gives us strength to face all kinds of challenges. My resilience is proof of that.
Fortunately, I was raised by an athlete. My father was a professional ice-skater in the 50’s & 60’s. Not only was I brought up to exercise & eat right, I heard about life in WWII England, where he grew up. I could not ask for a better example of strength and resilience than my Dad. He died in 1988, but is always with me.
Tell us about your advocacy
Step One of my advocacy was to write and publish my book. It is self-published because of my sense of urgency to provide a positive voice for TBI survivors from a TBI survivor. That could not wait for a publisher to give me a deal and eventually publish it, which could have taken a year, at least.
Step Two was to get coverage for my book. You can build a palace, but if no one knows it’s there, it will be empty. I am happy with the coverage the book has gotten and am ready for Step Three.
Step Three is to speak at local events, on cruise ships or anywhere else there is an audience that wants enlightenment on this fast-growing segment of our population: TBI Survivors. That is the best way for me to spread the word about our very simple needs, eliminate fear and offer encouragement.
Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?
I envision myself as an owner-operator of a retreat for TBI survivors and their families in Belize.
Suggested Resources from Lynda McGuirk
The first place to start is your medical and rehabilitation communities. They are a treasure trove of resources.
But there’s more to life than the critical needs the medical and rehabilitation communities address. The Brain Injury Association of America is an amazing resource for survivors, their family and caretakers. Their website has links to support groups, regional offices, events and more. That includes in-depth advocacy resources. I urge family and friends of TBI survivors to take advantage of their website and show it to the TBI survivor in their life. It’s an incredible resource: http://www.biama.org/