TBI Traumatic Brain Injury - A Living Nightmare
David and granddaughters
									Treska and Kaya
									Summer of 2004
David and granddaughters
Treska and Kaya

Summer 2004
 
David on the Paragon
David on the Paragon
in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean
(Check out that balance!)
(Jared, our son, is Captain of this vessel
for the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Summer 2004
Three Generations
Three Generations of Figurski Men
I love them all!


Hank, my Father-in-Law
Jared, my Son
David, my Husband & Best Friend
This is David and his father's Santa Cruz/Taos trip the summer before the TBI.
Summer 2004
 
David and Falko, our son-in-law,
David and Falko, our son-in-law,
playing in the mud AGAIN
at Ojo Caliente.
They do it all the time.
Summer 2004
David and Kiersten
David and Kiersten
Daddy's Little Girl
all grown up!
Looks like they are
going out to dinner.

Summer 2004

 
These pictures were taken shortly before the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) that David suffered. He can see! He can balance and walk! He can talk without sounding raspy. His hand doesn't wiggle uncontrollably. He can swallow with no problem. You might say everything was pretty much normal. You might say that . . . and you would be right!

This was a pretty amazing trip that David took with his father, Hank. I was in Puebla, Mexico studying on a grant, which was awarded to me by the NEH, National Endowment for the Humanities, (You can read more about that at:) ?OLE! Mexico ?OLE! and so David thought that this would be a great opportunity for him and his Dad to go WEST to visit our children, Kiersten and Jared. I'm so glad he did because that was the last time our children saw him before the trauma.
 
David trying out his 
									new running clothes
									LOOK'N GOOD
David trying out his
new running clothes
LOOK'N GOOD
December 2004
 
 

 


Here's David just 20 days before the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) caught up with him. Bet he would have run faster if he knew what was coming. Life's turns can be so unexpected. This was Christmas morning and I wanted to see how his new running clothes fit and looked on him. So, of course, he had to try them out -- running down our very short hallway. He looks GOOD!

This is the picture that I hung in David's hospital rooms in Columbia Hospital and at Kessler Rehab. I wanted the doctors, nurses, therapists, and aides to know who he REALLY was. I wanted them to see him brimming with life. I wanted them to glimpse him before TBI.

David ran about 20 miles every week. He could always be seen running through the parks of our town, all 6 of them -- and then up the hill to Lincoln School and down again. He ran to keep himself fit and healthy. He ran to ease the stress of 12 to 14 hour days of work in his lab/office at Columbia University. He ran to clear his head and for the feelings of relaxation he experienced after the run. He also ate well and took his vitamins. These three things were great contributing factors to David’s being alive today – that and his great motivation to live. I mean anyone who could run 10 miles in one stretch has great determination. David has great determination.

 
Donna & David 
									15 months AT
									(After Trauma)
Donna & David
15 months AT
(After Trauma)
April 2006

 
 
I’m living a nightmare and I’m glad that I am. Sounds strange . . . huh? Who would want to be trapped in a nightmare every waking moment? Well, I don’t want to be trapped here, but here I am, nonetheless. I would prefer to take my happy, secure life back with my husband, David . . . taking long walks each evening after dinner, going out on the weekends for our Friday and Saturday night dates. Strolling . . . forget strolling . . . he never strolled, through the parks on Sunday mornings in all seasons to our favorite breakfast restaurant, The Petite Café. But on January 13th, 2005 our lives burst . . . when something burst inside David’s head. The doctors call it a TBI, a Traumatic Brain Injury. Some folks call it a stroke, and though many symptoms overlap and are similar, it is not a stroke. I call it a Living Nightmare.

If I weren’t trapped in this nightmare, it would mean that David did not survive. Then it would be another nightmare altogether, but a nightmare just the same. So that’s why I can say that “I’m living a nightmare and I am glad that I am.” I can’t imagine life without my husband, and although David is with me, life has changed.

David wasn’t expected to survive his first brain surgery. His head filled with blood. He was in excruciating pain and the paramedics rushed him to the nearest hospital – well, they didn’t exactly rush him. Weren’t they supposed to? In every movie I’ve ever seen the paramedics ran. They always seemed to have a sense of urgency about them and the situation. Our paramedics ambled. They ambled around their truck to get some equipment. They ambled slowly, oh so slowly, up the stairs to the bedroom. Slowly, oh so slowly, they asked David what was bothering him. I wondered why they couldn’t comprehend the urgency. David was unable to speak. He was writhing on the bed, holding his head, sweat pouring from his body, and he was screaming. When they finally placed the oxygen mask over David’s face, relief came. He became silent and I was grateful. He looked peaceful, but I later realized that he had slipped into a coma. This was bad, but at least it brought him some peace.

When David arrived at the local hospital emergency room, the doctors assessed the situation, sent him for a CAT scan, and decided to perform immediate surgery to evacuate the blood from the massive hemorrhage. But there were more surprises in store. An aneurysm ready to burst was found, which needed to be removed. An AVM (Arterial Venous Malformation) was also discovered. This also needed to be removed. Three emergency brain surgeries were performed on my husband in less than two weeks. After the initial evacuation of blood from his brain, David spent two nights in the local hospital; then he was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for the additional surgeries.

For each surgery I was told that David had a small chance to live. He may not survive. Still, I had to sign on the dotted line. Me! David’s life was in my hands. A very scary thought! His life was in his surgeon’s hands, too. Many of the doctors that worked to save David's life at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City were former students of his. During medical school they had taken his Med Micro course. I remember thinking. I hope David taught them well, and I hope that they learned well. For now David’s life was in their hands, too. I wanted to ask David’s opinion. Did he want these surgeries? We always conferred on important decisions, and these seemed to be the most important ones of our lives. I wanted to shake him awake from his coma. I needed to know if I was making the right decisions. I needed him to help me, but he lay sleeping in a coma and he remained that way for nearly four weeks, and I had to make the hardest decisions of my life – alone. And so I signed – over and over and over again. I had no choice. If the operations were not performed, David would surely die and I could surely not live if he did.

Although David is a survivor, he battled three brain surgeries, the nightmare continues.
The brain trauma affected all of his motor skills and has reduced his motility to almost an infantile stage. He has to relearn to walk. His balance was and is still greatly affected. Although he has made significant gains in this area, he still has a long road to travel. For the first month after the surgeries, David remained in the NICU (Neurological Intensive Care Unit) at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. While there, the right side of his body was paralyzed. Within four weeks he became more aware and he slowly regained some movement. Then he moved to the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey, where he began the struggle to relearn to walk. At that time the best way to describe David was like a rag doll. He had as much balance and coordination as Raggedy Andy. Even with a walker, David could topple over with a breeze. When, nearly a year later, he began to use a four-pronged cane, he was still very shaky and needed to be shadowed wherever he went. Now David is gaining strength and progress is steadily being made, though it is taking a very long time. David is able to walk on his own, but picture Star Wars CP3O. His walk is very robot-like and so concentrated. He is still unsteady and can easily lose his balance, and still needs someone to shadow him in the outside world, but he is able to maneuver himself around our home rather freely. That’s not to say that I am not worried every waking moment.

David’s speech was also very affected. It was near impossible to understand him after they removed the trache. His voice was raspy and his words were garbled. Fortunately, today, although his voice is still gravelly and his speech is still very deliberate, he can be understood, but he may never regain the same beautiful voice he had before the TBI. Sometimes, I call him “marble-mouth” or “marshmallow-mouth” because sometimes it seems like his words are climbing over marbles or marshmallows to get out, but that only happens when he is really, really tired or when he is actually eating marshmallows.

“It’s hard work to talk,” he tells me. I know! I see his silent struggle. Most folks take everything for granted. It’s natural. It’s normal. It’s not until you lose something, that you realize how valuable it is. It’s not until you have to struggle to attain something that its meaning is redefined. It’s hard work to open a door or brush your teeth when your hand won’t cooperate – when it shakes uncontrollably with ataxia. It’s hard work to stand up, or sit down or take a step when you have no balance. It’s hard work to take a sip of water, eat a bowl of ice cream or even sleep when you can’t swallow properly; when you fear aspiration or choking to death. It’s hard work to see double, blurry, tilted images 24/7 . . . well maybe 17/7, (I don’t think David dreams in double, blurry, tilted images) or it’s hard work to read a computer screen with the font raised to 24 with the images bouncing around the screen. Make them Stop! It’s hard work even going to the bathroom – judging the time – since it takes so long to get there (balance) unfastening the belt ataxia.) Throw in a little neurogenic bladder disorder and paralysis and it makes for a lot of uncertainty. Living with TBI Traumatic Brain Injury is simply HARD WORK!

David recently presented an hour-long speech at a scientific symposium in Colorado. It was very well received; and he enjoyed many compliments, not only on the results of his work and that of his students and postdocs, but many of the scientists made a point to tell him that he was completely understandable. One professor even invited him to speak at her university in the near future. That was the final vote of confidence. Then shortly after David’s Colorado talk, he also presented his work at a scientific symposium at UCSD the University of California at San Diego in honor of his post-graduate mentor, Dr. Don Helinski. Don was retiring after 41 years, and David, as well as many of Don’s students and postdocs gathered at the university to honor him in retirement. David received many accolades as many professors, friends, and colleagues in his field congratulated him not only on his presentation and his delivery, but also on his determination, motivation, and progress through this very difficult and trying recovery.

David continues to struggle to overcome ataxia in his right hand. He recently met and shook hands with each of my first graders. They laughed, all in good humor, while he tried to steady his hand long enough to grasp each of theirs. That hand is so out of control.

Then one night after dinner, I laughed as I watched Monique, a friend of ours, and David try to put together three magnetic rods and three magnetic balls to make a triangle using ONLY his right hand. I laughed as his hand jiggled all over the place and the balls rolled away from him; and I laughed as Monique slapped my hands when I tried to help him catch the balls. I laughed as I tried to do this task and found it not as easy as it sounds and David laughed at me. I laughed and Monique laughed and David laughed. And that’s how we get through life in the Disability Lane. Without a sense of humor, this nightmare would be unbearable.

David has a good attitude and he rarely lets anything get him down. (Oh, he does sometimes, but it’s rare. I even lose it sometimes, too, but don’t tell anyone.) A good attitude is essential because there is no easy, fast way out of this abyss. I glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s dim for certain, but I do see a glimmer. It’s just that I have no idea how long this tunnel is.

I think of this nightmare like a traffic jam on the interstate. You are driving along at 65 miles per hour – maybe a little faster – cruising – taking every bend and curve in stride. Life is good! Then POW! Hit those brakes, switch gears, and wait. You know something is ahead – an accident, construction, a little glitch in your day. You don’t know how long this traffic jam is, but you hope you will eventually get to your destination, though you may be a little late. It’s just an annoying interruption in your trip and you know you have to wait it out. You know you have to stop or inch along. You just don’t know how long the interruption is going to take. And so you wait – patiently, or maybe not so patiently, but you wait nonetheless.

In David’s case his jam is his brain trauma – a major accident - and it’s going to take a LOT of reconstruction of brain cells and nerve cells, before he maneuvers his way out of this jam. Patience is key. It’s not easy, just as it’s not easy to sit in a traffic jam not knowing when you will arrive at the end of the glitch, and be able to smooth-sail again. And so the tunnel is long – long, like the Lincoln Tunnel in rush-hour traffic; long, as I peer around the edges of the cars and busses in front of me; long, as I strain to see around each bend in the tunnel longing to see the light; long, when I finally do glimpse light only to realize it is a reflection and not REAL. LONG! LONG! LONG! But knowing that there is an end in sight, somewhere in some time, David and I continue to travel this long road of disability, with no choice, until we reach the “light at the end of our tunnel.”

 
Clara Maass Hospital
									Belleville, New Jersey
									This is the emergency entrance.
Clara Maass Hospital
Belleville, New Jersey
This is the emergency entrance.
 
Columbia Presbyterian Hospital
									New York City
									The building David works in, 
									The Arm
Columbia Presbyterian Hospital
New York City
The building David works in,
The Armand Hammer Building,
is directly across the street.
(see the tall, red building on the left.)
 
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation
East Orange, New Jersey
David spent two long months
as an inpatient here.
He continued his therapy
there for the next year.
 
 
 
This is the inner courtyard right 
									outside the gym -- very peaceful.
This is the inner courtyard right
outside the gym -- very peaceful.
 
Dominican Hospital Rehabilitation Center
									Santa Cruz, California
									A Most AMAZING Plac
Dominican Hospital Rehabilitation Center
Santa Cruz, California
A Most AMAZING Place
 
Fish and Turtles 
									enjoying the peacefulness 
									of the 
									inner courtyard
Fish and Turtles
enjoying the peacefulness
of the
inner courtyard
 
David also spent six weeks at the Domincan Rehabilitation Center in Santa Cruz, California. While at Dominican, David received excellent services from all of his therapists.

 
Terryn & David
									Always trying new things.
Terryn & David
Always trying new things.
 
Terryn & David
Terryn & David
TA-DA!!!!!
Showing Off Again
I Love It!
Terryn and David working on the computer.
									Looking at scientific slides 
									and practic
Terryn and David working on the computer.
Looking at scientific slides
and practicing giving a talk.
 

This is TERRYN!


She is AMAZING!


His Occupational Therapist, Terryn Davis’, dynamic personality and her passion and exuberance for her profession was so apparent as she worked with David. She went above and beyond and her laughter is a medicine all its own. She is AMAZING. We couldn't stop laughing. Her giggles resounded from the walls of the gym as she coaxed David through some pretty difficult and sometimes funny contortions, while trying to improve his fine motor skills and balance. Terryn made coming to the gym so much fun and I very rarely missed a session.
 
Mike and David
									Learning to Walk Again
Mike and David
Learning to Walk Again
Summer 2005
 
David and Mary Anne 
									Working on Balance
David and Mary Anne
Working on Balance
Summer 2005
 

What a Team!


David’s Physical Therapists, Michael Stevens and Mary Ann Kramer-Urner shared their plan of treatment for David and demonstrated flexibility, adaptability, a strong work ethic, and upbeat personalities. Their constant assessment of David’s needs was commendable.
 
Speech Pathologist, Gillian Bower’s gentle ways and her knowledge will contribute to David's recovery.

When Gillian Bower and Terryn Davis needed to leave for personal reasons a few days earlier, John Benich and Mike Seagraves, respectively, stepped in and made the transition quick and easy.

All of David’s therapists were very professional and knowledgeable in his or her area of expertise and we are very grateful to each of them for their dedication and for making our time in California an easier one and a memorable one for all the laughter.

I don't want to forget Mona Robertson who worked in the office and was my first friendly contact at Domincan Hospital. We had so many wonderful talks. She was never too busy to stop her typing fingers, well, I bet she was busy, but she stopped them anyway, to help me with so many little/big problems and, to just talk. Our first talk was when I was driving on the Cross Bronx Expressway (with my earphone in, of course) from the JFK airport -- a tricky drive in the best of times. I hate driving New York. Our talks in her office were much more sane and comforting.

Also, I have to mention Rodger. I said my hellos to him every day.

(Sorry - no pictures here. I had them, but my camera lost them. Notice, I blamed my camera because I would never have done such a thing.)

If I've forgotten anyone, I sincerely apologize. I truly believe you are all wonderful.
 
TRISH and BRYCE WILLIAMS
Summer 2005
Here are Trish (aka Patti) and Bryce.
Here are Trish (aka Patti) and Bryce
 
 

My cousin-in-law, Bryce, was one of the first people to arrive. He was there while David was being operated on for his first surgery.

Cousin Trish, (aka Patti) and Bryce only live down the street from me. But on this fateful day, Trish was in Florida visiting her family. Through a very roundabout way - the family phone chain, which literally went around the whole country, Trish found out about the surgery and called her husband, Bryce. Bryce immediately left his job in NYC to come to the hospital.

I didn't realize how critical David was.
I didn't think I needed anybody to hold my hand.
I did!     AND . . . They did!
 
SHERYL LLOYD
Summer 2005

This is Sheryl.
This is Sheryl.
 
 

This is Sheryl Lloyd. She has been my teaching assistant off and on for a number of years.
We work side by side in my First Grade classroom. Sheryl was working with me the year of David's trauma.

She's pretty amazing!
She was also there for me when David was in surgery
and
a long time after, too.

Sheryl was my lifeline to my classroom and to my school. She let me know how the Kiddles were doing. She passed my lessons to the substitute teacher for me. She helped pave the way for the children to understand that I wouldn't be in school for awhile and why I had to be away; and she was my liason to my colleagues.
 
JUDY
Summer 2006

This is my friend, Judy. I met Judy around the middle of January 2005 in the waiting room of Columbia Hospital's Neurological Intensive Care Unit. I had already been living David's Traumatic Brain Injury nightmare for about two weeks. Judy was fresh to it . . . to her very own nightmare with her husband, Steve. I saw pain and fear in Judy's eyes, and I hoped I could somehow ease some of her pain by letting her know what I had already learned. And . . . so we talked.

Judy's husband, Steve, was only a few cubicles away from David. Steve was suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury, too. Judy and I soon discovered that we each met our husbands at a very young age. We were only teenagers. judythaupopovers2006AND, as I did with David, Judy knew immediately, that she was going to marry Steve. A kinship began between Judy and me.

Two weeks after meeting Judy, with a few tears and hugs and a lot of wishes for luck, we said goodbye. David was being transferred to Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in East Orange, New Jersey. Since Judy and Steve were from New York, it was likely that Steve would be moved to a rehabilitation center in the New York area. I didn't know when Judy and I would see each other again, but we vowed to do so.

So one night, about a month later, when I saw Judy's face through the tiny window of the doors of the Neuro Ward at Kessler, I was so excited. Whenever Judy was not by her husband's side, or I by David's, we had time to talk once again. The therapists were even kind enough to schedule David's and Steve's therapies at the same time so that Judy and I could spend time together, too.

Now we each have our husbands home again and Judy and I talk on the phone or email each other - trading news of our husbands' latest healing accomplishments. We both agree that our lives have desperately changed. They have been turned upside down and inside out. And, although our families and friends are kind and sympathetic to our new lives, and try to understand, it's impossible for them to truly comprehend the depth of how life has changed for us. It's not easy to leave behind our fairytale lives. -- Meet prince! Marry prince! Live happily ever after! -- Okay, so the "happily ever after" part of the story has been altered, but we are both striving to make that happen again -- and we will succeed. We are strong women!

Although Judy and I met under the direst of circumstances, I am so grateful that she is a part of my life and that we have become friends. Lots of hugs, Judy!

(See Popovers Cafe in the background on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. Judy and I met there for lunch a few months ago and we talked and talked and talked . . . for hours. I love their Eggs Benedict Arnold - black forest ham, fried eggs and lemon hollandaise sauce. YUM! Double YUM!)
 
JUDY & STEVE THAU
Summer 2007

Judy and I are always just an email away--keeping track of how each of us is doing and how our husbands are progressing. Though David and Steve both suffered brain traumas, they were both affected so differently.
judy-&-steve-thau-2007
David and Steve were only cubicles away in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and only a wall separated them at Kessler. Does that tell you something?  I think these men were destined to meet. Oh, they met in the hallways at Kessler and they shared the same therapy times, but neither David nor Steve remembered each other. So, Judy and I decided it was time for them to meet . . . in "REAL" time.

One sunny Sunday afternoon in August 2007, Judy and Steve came to visit. Judy and I were really looking forward to seeing each other, but I david-&-steve-2007think that David and Steve had some reservations. They shouldn't have. They became instant friends. That Sunday afternoon we all relived our nightmare days at Columbia and Kessler. It was painful. It was humorous. It was cleansing.

It's now three years since David and Steve began the journey of climbing out of the abyss of traumatic brain injury. David's anniversary of re-life is on January 13th. Steve's is January 31st. Both men are strong. Both have a burning desire to become well again. AND . . . they will!

CONGRATULATIONS to both of you! AND . . . thanks for the fight!
 
Donna and David 
									enjoying a little Mexican food 
									and atmosphere 
									in Encinitas, Cal
Donna and David
enjoying a little Mexican food
and atmosphere
in Encinitas, California
Summer 2006
 
And so the nightmare goes on and on and on, but through it all we have each other and for that we are very fortunate. BUT, we won't acept this plight. We will battle and we will fight and we will WIN!
 
David
David
 

SO THERE!


 
Dedicated to my husband and best friend, David.
I will always love you.
You are an amazing man!
Thank you for fighting the fight to stay with me.
How could I live without you?

With all my love,

Donna
 
NOTES from FAMILY and FRIENDS and all OUR SUPPORTERS
Without all of the support from family and friends, I don't know how David and I would endure this.
Your calls, emails, and genuine concern help to carry us through. 
THANK YOU ALL!
 
December 2006   Update.

David’s comment, “SO THERE!” tells it all. He will not give up. He will battle this. His persistence is doing him well. It’s slowly doing him well, but at least we are recording improvement. David went back to work full-time in September . . . on a trial basis - his neurologist agreed. Going to lab each day is proving to be the best therapy of all for David. Remember, I said that although David’s cognitive brain is unaltered, his physical disabilities continue to challenge him. He is still not able to move around in the outside world unassisted.

Each day after David returns from Columbia, he spends time on his computer working on lab-related jobs while practicing his keyboarding skills, and another two hours are spent doing therapy exercises. We hope that all of these activities coupled with time will eventually make David better. It takes months to realize even the smallest changes and we measure the change by looking backwards.

David’s posture has become more erect and his shoulders have evened out. He’s not quite so lopsided - well, except for his crooked little grin – that still is, but there is improvement there, too. His continues to make progress with his balance and walking. There has been some improvement in his vision since his eye surgery in May, but unfortunately, the miracle I/we had hoped for did not happen. So we must wait longer for his eyes to repair themselves and hope that they will. David’s neuro-ophthalmologist was so excited on our last visit when David quickly passed the depth perception test, which he was unable to do only three months prior and that gave us our carrot of   hope. The ataxia in his right hand is becoming more controlled as David forces that hand to work. He still isn’t ready to pick up a glass with that hand, but he is getting pretty good at opening doors.

So, all in all, there is progress, though it is progressing at a snail’s pace. And, so we celebrate every step along the way, no matter how small. Since September, David and his students have written an NIH grant and have published two papers in the Journal of Bacteriology. No easy feat! But on December 1st there was a milestone to celebrate. David graduated his seventeenth student from his lab. Brenda Perez, who has been a graduate student in David’s lab for about six years, completed her thesis work. She defended her thesis and received her Ph.D. Brenda continued her work while David was in the hospital. She and David’s other graduate students and postdocs visited him in the hospital to discuss their work with him. After he was released, these lab meetings took place at our home with David trapped on the couch. This makes Brenda’s Ph.D. accomplishment so much sweeter. 

brendathesisseminarposterd
 
brendatadgradposterdec2006

 
 The BEFORE poster!
Still a wee bit nervous.
The AFTER poster.
Conquering the World. 

davidandbrendaperezthesis20
 
CONGRATULATIONS, Brenda!  
CONGRATULATIONS, David!  
 
           
 


womenstudentsindavidslife20THE WOMEN IN DAVID'S  LIFE

These are the women in David's life. They come and they go. They come with hopes and dreams -- some to collect that piece of paper at the end of their work conferring their Ph.D. degrees; some as postdocs to enhance their learning. And they go . . . to new labs to carry on their work as postdoctoral fellows or assistant professors.
Sarah Greene, research technician
Brenda Perez, most recently called Dr. Perez
Valerie Weaver-Grosso, postdoc
Donna (me)  staying put – not going anywhere
Galadriel Hover-Miner, graduate student
Sarah Clock, graduate student

 
   
FORMER STUDENTS  -- COLLEAGUES -- FRIENDS
                Brenda with some of David's former students. davidsstudentsdec2006
                                                                                  
    Paul Planet, Brenda Perez, Scott Kachlany, Oliver Jovanovic

 Oliver Jovanovic and Daviddavidandoliverdec2006

Oliver received his Ph.D in 2002 after completing
his graduate work in David's lab.



mladinandsarahgdec2006

Here are Mladen Tomich and Sarah Greene raising a glass to toast their friend and colleague, Brenda. Both Mladen and Sarah are currently in David's lab. Mladen is doing his postdoc, while Sarah is a research technician.

Alice Prince
was a postdoc in David’s lab a long time ago in the 1980s.
alice

She is now a physician, a Professor of Pediatrics and a Professor of Pharmacology at Columbia University.

Alice has remained a friend in our lives and she’s the first one we call in any medical emergency.
 
Wow! I was just reading your last email thinking of you both...and up popped your message. What a great picture, Donna!! I miss you, too. I wore my frogs yesterday with a big smile. Hope all is well. Love you always,

Terryn D. (David and Donna's friend and occupational therapist from Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz, California)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Donna, you poor kid…but yet, you’re one STRONG SURVIVOR & so is David…..you’ve been through hell…of course, you MUST use that & write about it….it will help others. Just went through your web site…What a job you do on it…AMAZING!!!

How old are your kids now??? AND ARE YOU TEACHING & HAVE AN AID FOR DAVID…or are YOU working with him all day & have given up teaching????????????

Keep up the incredibly good work & spirit…you are to be admired….you are a role model…therefore but for the grace of God go we all…down the same path…for ourselves or our loved ones…keep writing…& your pictures are terrific..you look GREAT!!!

CHRONICLE picked up one of my books, WHEN LOUIS ARMSTRONG TAUGHT ME SCAT…they just signed an artist…& my biog. of him is going the rounds… & just finished another picture book about a witch who gets “broom sick”…
Good luck…love & hugs,

Muriel W. (Donna's writing friend)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Nice tribute, a great story, let's hope it continues to get better.

Saul S. (David's colleague and friend from Columbia University)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Donna,

I admire your efforts! All the best to you and David.

Saleem Khan (David's colleague and friend from University of Pittsburgh)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dear Donna:

I read the story on your website. Great writing, and very compelling. Your cheerful manner whenever we visit belies the great hardships that you continue to work through. May the situation continue improving, no matter how slowly!

Best regards,
David B. (David's former graduate student -- now an Associate Professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Donna and Dave:

I read through the entire TBI section of your web site. Thanks for the narrative. I'm sure it only scratches the surface of what you've been going through, but I appreciate the glimpse.

Donna, I also read some of the comments from your students. You're obviously having quite a lasting and very positive impact on a lot of people.

Dan K. (David's friend from graduate school)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dearest Donna,

I have always thought you could do anything and now I know I'm right. Your labor of love for your husband has moved me. I believe things happen, even as traumatic as your nightmare, for a reason. It's usually not evident right off why but I feel you and David will produce as much or more good as a result of the bad you've had to endure. Amazing courage is shown by both of you. The fact is you're a team with a hard and rewarding road ahead. You are both in my daily most positive thoughts and prayers. Peace,

sÜe (Donna's writing friend and her co-host of the Children's Writers Workshop on AOL))

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Just wanted to tell you how touched I was by what you wrote. It's hard for me to know whether I feel that way because of my sentiments for Dave or because of the way you put the whole story together. The combination of the photo's and the story make everything come to life. Anyway thanks for forwarding that to me. I was so happy to see you and Dave at Scott's place last week. I think that Dave is continuing to make progress and with his will power who knows where he will be in 6 more months. Donna i also just realized that you sent me an e-mail about Dave's teaching award . . . So thanks for that email, as well.

Dan F. (David's colleague and friend from UMDNJ)

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Donna and Dave,

The TBI website tells an incredible tale. David provided motivation and high standards throughout my graduate career; the two of you continue to do so.

Val T. (David's former graduate student - now an Assistant Professor at Bard College)

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Donna and David,

Hi, I am so moved, from what I just read, it's hard to say what I feel. It seems that so many of our lives, in this family, have been so adversely affected in the past 2 1/2 years and I don't know why. I DO know, after getting together with you both last month, what you are going through and I know it's hard. I have the utmost respect for the both of you for staying "one" in such a hard time. Sometimes, it seems so easy to quit, but let me assure you, the next path you go down is not as easy, as one may think. I wish I knew why life turns out the way it does and not the way one expects. Please give each other a HUG from me.
I Love You Both,

Mark (Donna's brother)

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Hi Donna,

I just finished reading your TBI page. It is a wonderfully detailed account of before, after and the present. David is amazing and so are you. I hope you are finding a little time for yourself this summer...as my mother used to say "You can't run a car on empty"....take care of yourself!

Love,
Judy T. (Donna's wonderful friend)

NOTE:
I met Judy at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital after her husband, Steve, was admitted for a brain trauma, too - just two weeks after David. Then Judy and Steve came to Kessler, where we firmed up our friendship. Judy is probably the ONLY one who even comes close to knowing what I am going through, since she is going through the very same thing with her best friend, too. I'm holding her hand. She's holding mine.

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Donna,

I knew when I didn't hear back from you months ago that you had to be under the most incredible duress. Oh honey. I am so proud of all you are doing to help heal David. Muriel called me tonight and told me about your site. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. I cried and yet, in your Donna way, you made me laugh.

YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU CAN BOTH DO THIS.

Miss you much. All my love to you and please know I am keeping you in my heart. We WILL Kindle again one day. {} Together. {}

Pamela Ross (Donna's writing friend)

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Hello there Donna,

I read " A Livning Nightmare" last night and began crying. I started emailing you back and accidently deleted it-blurry vision I think. You and David are my hero's. Always have been , always will be. Thank you for sharing your experiences and love for him. Your words touch me deeply.

As for the pictures....hee hee hee. They brought back such great memories. I loved them!!! You words were too kind. I had so much fun!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

It was so funny to get your email at the very same time I was thinking of you and reading your last communication. I keep looking for Jared but I never see him. He is so wonderful. Please give him my number: . . . .

I'm still trying to figure out how to come and visit...one of these days...look out:)

Donna, I miss you and think of you and David in the quiet evenings and early mornings. My heart is with you. Take care.

Love,
Terryn D. (David and Donna's friend and occupational therapist from Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz, California)

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Hi Donna,

Thanks for the updates. I can see the loving relatiuonship that you and David share and it sounds as though progress is being made. You are so optimistic about the whole ordeal!!

Regards,
Anne Mueller (Director of the Oregon International Council Seminar for Spanish Teachers)

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Hi Donna-

I had no idea about David's injury. I'm so sorry to hear about the struggles--I can't imagine how hard, scary, and frustrating this has been for you both. Thank you for posting the story--you write with such honesty, inspiration, and hope. You and David seem to be handling this with such grace--how inspiring. I miss our time in Puebla, too, and think of that summer so often. Much peace to you and David. You both will remain in my close thoughts.

Best-
Carmen Brock (Fellow Spanish Teacher who was also awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to study with the Oregon International Council (OIC) in Puebla, Mexico.)

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Donna,

This is riveting. Man, Donna, that is so moving. Did you publish this elsewhere, too? It reads like something out of Reader's Digest or one of those ladies' magazines with the "How We Survived" kinds of stories. I think it would be a wonderful book.

Roxyanne Young (Editor of SmartWriters Journal at SmartWriters.com)

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Hi, Donna,

Thanks for sending this. It's a great piece and I'm glad to have the update and know you're both on the recovery road, though it's a long one.

I also enjoyed seeing photos of your kids and granddaughters. Gorgeous, all of them!

Much Love,
Marilyn Singer (Donna's writing friend)

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Hi Donna,

I just finished reading about David. I was amazed and touched by your story. You've got to make a book out of it. It will help and inspire so many other people going through the same or similar situations.

I loved the pictures. I hadn't realized I hadn't ever seen any pictures of David before. You two really have a very special connection. It's very obvious in your story and also, I think, a very rare relationship. You're really lucky to have each other.

I know David will continue to improve. I hope you reach the end of your tunnel very soon. I will keep you both in my thoughts and prayers.

Gayle Williams (Donna's writing friend)

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Donna and David,

Your journey--one courageous step at a time--inspires others to find their way to the light. I am honored by your friendship.

Blessings to both of you,
Nancy McDonough (very dear friend - Nancy was my mentor teacher while I was doing my student teaching. We've been friends for a LOT of years.)

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Dear Donna,

I just visited your website and caught up on your recent challenges. Bravo to you and your family for your approach and sense of humor and your appreciation for the important things. What an admirable lesson for us all.

My very best,
Pam Munoz Ryan (Donna's writing friend and author of one of her favorite books, Esperanza Rising)

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DONNA!

My god here is a huge hug and a tear for both of you. I have missed you both so much and I am overwhelmed by this news. I went to your site and am all caught up with what is happening. My thoughts are with you.

Love,
Suzanne Shelden (Donna's writing friend)

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Hi Donna,

I just read the "nightmare" update and looked at the pictures. An amazing piece - you are courageous to open up like that and give a bigger glimpse of what you and Dave are going through. He is lucky to have you and his great family. The people that surround someone with a TBI make all the difference. I think one of the things that struck me most was the picture of Dave in his running suit at Christmas before the stroke - being active with his big smile. But it seems the spirit from which that activity and energy come from are carrying him through some major obstacles now. I wrote Dave an email the other day, but please give him my best again.

Jim Wilson (David's former graduate student - now an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University)

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Hi Donna,

My prayers are with you and your family as you maneuver through this
obstacle course of life.
Thanks for sharing your story and inspiration via your website. I've thought
of you a million times since our days in Mexico. You are one strong and
vibrant woman and I wish you peace always.

Love to you and yours. Hang in there!!! Keep smiling!
Jennifer Peppe (Fellow Spanish Teacher who was also awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to study with the Oregon International Council (OIC) in Puebla, Mexico.)

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Dear Donna,

I was so glad to see your email in my in box and so moved by your account of what you and David have been through. Thank you for sharing this most difficult of experiences in a way that is instructive to all who read it. Your love and determination are simply wonderful. What a pair the two of you are! I'm proud to know you.

You are amazing! Truly a woman of heart. Your website brims with love. Thank you for the gift of it.

I am honored to be your friend, Donna. All the best to you.

Love,
Sarah Lamstein (Donna's writing friend -- author of I Like Your Buttons and Annie's Shabbat)

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Hello Figurskis,

Just received the note from Bob Freschi and wanted to write you all to check in and say hello. I will write Dave on his e-mail to "catch-up" since our Phi Kap days at PITT.

Godspeed to you all,

John & Linda Lednak (David's Phi Kappa Theta fraternity brother and wife)

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Brother Dave,

I hope you remember me. I pledged Phi Kappa Theta in my second semester freshman year, as you were a graduating senior. We didn't know each other long, but it was a small house and we knew each other well. That was almost 40 years ago, but my college days seem like yesterday to me. We local Pittsburgh Phi Kaps still get together regularly for lunch, and sit together at Pitt Football games. We tailgate together and pass around the old photo composites, and still embellish stories of our college days way beyond the truth. My prayers are with you and Donna for your full recovery. If anyone can do it, you can. Get well so you can join us at a Pitt game soon.

Fraternally,

Rick Moses (David's Phi Kappa Theta fraternity brother)

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Congratulations on your ongoing success and courage as the "comeback kid". I wish you well. Enjoy every minute of everyday with your family, friends and colleagues.You two are a great team!

Fraternally yours,
John F. Shega, MD (David's Phi Kappa Theta fraternity brother)
Phi Kap '74

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Hi Donna and David,

It's always good to hear from you. I'm glad you are writing about this experience,Donna. I'm sure it helps to get out some of your frustrations. Great job on the web site. Congrats to David on his speech and getting back to work a little.

Please stay in touch. It's always good to know David is progressing.Donna, hang in there. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel for you two.Writing may be your salvation. Always know we care and are praying for both of you. Continued good luck.

Love you both,

Joyce (David's cousin and a member of our wedding oh so long ago)

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Dear Donna and Dave,

I am a fraternity brother of Dave's. A fellow "pledge-mate" just sent me a link to your site. . . . When I saw the mention of Dave's trip to Santa Cruz and then a picture of Domincan Hospital ... well, it became a smaller world.

It is good news to learn that Dave's cognitive mind is intact. As for
strength, patience, and persistent, you must certainly match his. We send our support.

Michael Bashista (David's Phi Kappa Theta fraternity brother)

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David,

I have followed your journey through Donna's emails, and am so happy for you
that you are doing so well. Three years ago, no one could have predicted how
far you'd come, and the day you went back to work you had everyone in a
state of suspended belief.  You must have worked extraordinarily hard to get
there, and to continue along this rewarding path.

I hope the rest of the journey finds you healthy, happy, productive and
as forward-looking as ever.

Barbara (Seuling) 
(Donna's colleague in children's books)
(Donna's writing friend and author of How To Write a Children's Book and Get It Published and Whose House . . . and lots more.)
1/14/08




 
   
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