#WhyISign


 

This is my story for # Why I Sign? Campaign at #whyisign on YouTube, Instagram & Facebook. The CC is right there on YouTube and there’s one right on the video in my Instagram too! The link to my story in Instagram is here: Link to my #WhyISign Video withCC on Instagram and then the link to my #WhyISign story on YouTube (which also has CC for the “Sign Language Impaired” **Lol just teasing) is just below this paragraph. Thank you for stopping by to find out my story and the reasons “Why I Sign”!!

Updated “WHY I SIGN?” Video on my YouTube Channel At: @ASLSuzyQ

AND….THATS…. #WHYISIGN ….bye ..Love, Suzy

From Mini Van to Wheelchair In 10 Seconds!


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I awaken each day; the first thing that I do is cry. I cry because I’m in pain and it is as though someone stepped on my back in the night and feels “broken”.  My husband hears my cries and he goes and gets my pain medication. Medication that I’ve taken since 2005; and never more but sometimes less. He proceeds to start making breakfast, coffee and give tap water to our Cat. It’s her favorite thing in the morning aside from running up the stairs to get me after about 20-30 minutes. My husband says “Luna, go and get Momma”!  She bolts up the stairs and “Meows” at me to get up. She doesn’t stop until I am upright and together we go down the stairs. It’s almost 7:00 am, and most likely I just went to bed at 4:00 am. I have some tea and toast. We chat a bit and he goes to work.

I have choices to make and they are not easy ones. My oldest daughter only lives 2 or 3 blocks away, with her husband and our two eldest granddaughters, ages 4 and 2 1/2.  We see each other often but it’s so hard for me to fight the deep, deep fatigue and pain to do  a lot of outings and I just am not able to babysit alone, without my husband there.  I think it upsets her and I feel so bad inside because I cannot do what I wish I could do. The first year and a half that we were reunited (**my daughter left home at age 18 and was away for 10 years. This is not a story about those very sad times. This is about the reuniting of a family that was broken because of a car accident.  My daughters were used to me being and doing everything and suddenly I could not do anything, not even dress myself. My eldest ran from the pain and surgeries), I think I ran on adrenaline.  I saw her/them daily and then afterwards, I came home and crashed. Was that fair to my husband? No, it wasn’t! Did he say one word about it to me? No, because he was so happy to see my heart whole again. It was broken for 10 years!

So now it’s been about 3 years and so much has happened. I lost my Dr. of 12 years and the old pain medications that made easier for me to do more, it seemed.  My pain Dr. is much better now and the regimen that I’m on is safer.  But I’m unable to do the activities that I wish to do with them.  If I was the person that I had been, I would be making snow angels with them in the snow.  I’d be baking cookies and running around playing tag and “Duck, Duck Goose”. I do play some “sit down” (for me) games with them and we have tea parties. We watch Disney movies and I love it when they sit close to me and play with my hair. I used to take my walker to the zoo or on daily outings. I sat down when I was tired and I just was happy to be together.  I’m still so very happy to have everyone together. I could never have had a happy life without both of my daughters and my grandchildren it.

Time has changed me and now I am tired and in pain much faster;  more deep than before. In 2013, my CRPS changed from being in my feet and knees; to “severe systemic and disseminated”.  It happened after what was supposed to be a 45 minute surgery but turned out to be a 3 hour heart and pectoral muscle rebuild surgery.  I’ve never recovered and have felt a deep deep fatigue since then. If I do something for 2 hours one day, then I’m in my recliner for the rest of the day. I don’t want it to be this way, I don’t like it at all.  I want to spend a whole day at the zoo with my granddaughters.  I feel that my oldest daughter gets so frustrated when I cannot do the things I pushed myself to do at the beginning.  Nobody understands “Invisible Illnesses”, not even our own families or friends. We used to go to dinner each Friday with my best friend and her husband. I’ve cancelled a few times in this past year and now I can feel a difference.  Things that I wish I could do, I no longer am able to do.  I love and look forward to babysitting when my husband is home and he is with me.  He is there so that when I start to be too tired and in too much pain, he takes over.

But I lose friends and have lost people related to me. My own family cousin, who’d been my best friend for years; stopped talking with us after the car accident.  My husband had called and asked her to come over because I could not be left alone at the beginning. I couldn’t dress or undress myself.  I couldn’t even go to the rest room without help.  My cousin and another person who was a good friend of ours, told Craig “No, I just can’t help because it’s too sad.  When I get sad, then my family is sad and I cannot do that to them.” She took herself out of my life and so did the rest of my cousins, and family.  I called my own brother after the accident from the hospital. I had been unconscious and when I finally got to a room, I tried to reach for the phone and missed. I hit my cheek instead.  I called the only number that stuck in my head due to the TBI, it was my oldest brother. He answered the phone and I told him I ‘d been in a car accident, a bad one. I told him I was in the hospital and he answered back by saying, “Oh…you need someone? …..CLICK” and he hung up on me. Craig is my hero and the only person who’s ever truly loved me unconditionally. He’s there when I need him and when I think I don’t think I need him so much.

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A Day in The Life of A Brain Injury


One day during the Summer of 2002, the sun was shining and my husband and I were walking hand in hand, sipping lemonade at an outdoor Art Fair. We were enjoying the warm air and each other’s company as we walked hand in hand. Afterwards, we’d decided to go into town for dinner because our two teenage daughters were busy with friends for the day.

We were driving on our way to dinner when suddenly, I heard my husband shout out “OH NO!” I looked and saw a car coming straight at us. Instinctively, I pulled my legs up to my chin into the fetal position and screamed. What happened afterwards is a blur, but I do remember hearing a very loud noise upon impact and then the smell of smoke. Next, there was only a dead silence. I remember wondering if we were dead for about a nano second. Suddenly everything went dark and silent. That’s all I remember about that day, except short little pictures in my mind of the ambulance ride, hospital & ER..

Once I was admitted to the hospital, I do recall being very upset because I could not walk. No one would come to help me when I tried to call for the nurses. It was hard to use the “nurse call” button because my rotator cuffs were torn in both shoulders. Both of my knees had torn Meniscus’ and I had a ruptured Biceps tendon. There were just too many injuries and then the multiple surgeries that followed for many years. I have Degenerative Disc Disease and suffered multiple herniated and bulging discs at C4/5/6 and L4-5/S-1 with Radiculopathy. I had an MRI which showed that I was most likely born with Arnold Chiari Malformation I. It must have been “sleeping” all of those years, the Dr.’s told me. They explained that between the severe whiplash from that MVA & a whiplash that I suffered from a previous car accident; my Chiari had been awakened. I could not hold my head up at all. The pain was horrible and intense. My husband says that when they were doing my X-rays back in the ER; I was screaming because it was so painful. He said that I was crying out so loudly, that people standing in the hallway left; because they could not handle listening to the painful screams. I mostly remember my back and neck hurting so badly that I could think of nothing else.

My husband also told me that he kept trying to tell the Dr.’s that “something was not right” about me. He thought that I was acting very different from my “normal” personality. He said that when he told them I was acting “not myself”, they sent up a Psych consult. Then they told him that “I couldn’t handle the pain because of the abuse I suffered growing up and in my past marriage”. He didn’t know what to say although he knew that could not be true because I hadn’t been “different” just before the accident? After only 5 days in the hospital, and after their lack of being proactive to help me with my pain and injuries; my husband signed me out against medical advice. He took me to the Neurologist who had known me for 3 years at that point.

The Neurologist really got the “ball rolling” and had me tested for anything and everything that could have been wrong. At that point I was in a wheelchair, could not hold my head up and needed a yardstick behind my head/neck with a pillow on it. My husband rigged up a way to help me have something to rest my head upon. I could not dress myself, go to the bathroom alone or even cut my own food.

We finally found out what was truly wrong. Our questions were answered when I was diagnosed with a TBI or “Traumatic Brain Injury”. I went through 6 months of intense PT, OT and speech therapy. After that, I was in Physical therapy for 8 more years and brain injury rehabilitation for 3 full years. The brain injury rehabilitation was done after I’d done poorly on the Neuro-psych testing. Over the next 3 years, I was in a brain injury rehabilitation program. I was there Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. I had to have a driving company take me to and from the rehab center daily because I was unable to drive due to pain and nerve injuries.

I could not comprehend what I was reading and had a hard time finding the right words to use while speaking. I was more than forgetful and couldn’t remember my phone number, social security number or my own address. The tests showed that my short term memory was terribly low. I went to speech therapy, Physical and occupational therapy and had to re-learn how to drive via Drivers Rehab training. I did pass in the end, but can only drive a few miles for personal errands. They told me they were afraid that I might get someplace and not be able to find my car in the parking lot. Also, the nerve injuries in my legs, knees, lower back and neck; make driving terribly difficult and fatiguing.

It was and is very frustrating to go from graduating with honors and having a “photographic memory” to not be able to read a full book any longer. I had read the first 4 “Harry Potter” books and was in the middle of the 5th book, when the accident happened. I still cannot and have not been able to finish the rest of the books in that series. Whenever I’ve tried to read any books since that time; I end up reading, reading again and then re-reading. Every time I put the book down and then try to return to pick up where I had left off; I cannot remember most of what happened before that point. I’ve tried audio books and it is just the same. I try to listen and whenever I stop and try to go back to it; I’ve forgotten the whole beginning again. This brain injury has changed my life because I have issues with: double vision, severe dry eye, incomplete blinks, prisms in my glasses and continued worsening lowered vision. I have a moderate hearing loss and have 2 hearing aids now; when ironically, I was an Interpreter for the Deaf before that car accident. I worked at a major University hospital, Interpreting for Deaf patients and also at a school for the Deaf with Deaf children. My life was and is changed forever because someone was distracted and then ran through a red light. My husband’s life and the lives of my daughters were also changed forever in the blink of an eye. I had been a very involved mother who cooked, cleaned, did laundry and drove a mini van full of teenagers. I still made sure that I went in my wheelchair to every swim meet and dance competition. I didn’t want them to think my love or support for them had changed in any way.

I wanted to mention that I still have bad migraines, usually they are “Chiari” migraines. I have balance issues and my personality changed in that I get very emotional now, when I wasn’t like that before the TBI. I also have a hard time making decisions; along with having the same issues that I’ve had since the MVA. If you have had a closed head injury, a TBI or an MTBI, please contact Brain Injury Association for information.

From Interpreter for The Deaf To Hard of Hearing, in 10 Seconds!


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Hello Luvs,

Back in 1999, I left my career as an Interpreter for the Deaf and had to go on disability. I was approved first attempt and that doesn’t happen often. When I was set to go to the appointment with the physicians from the SSDI, they called the day prior to my appointment and spoke to my husband. They told him that they received my team of physician’s reports. They let him know that I did not have to attend that appointment because they said “Suzanne is the worst case of childhood trauma/abuse that we’ve seen in the past 36 years.  We don’t want her to have to tell her story to even one more person.”  I was approved and then things got medically worse from there.  In 2002, I was in the car with my husband, on our way to have a little dinner out alone together & a man ran through a red light.  Within seconds, our lives changed forever!

I was unconscious for about 20 – 30 minutes, I am told. I awakened a couple of times in the ambulance and again at the hospital. But I have no other memories of that day except for extreme pain and hearing my own screams during the X-ray exams. I was really lucky that my husband was unhurt and that the kids were not in the car. I spent the next 3 years in daily brain injury rehabilitation.  Also, I spent the following 8 1/2 years in Physical and Occupational Therapy along with going through approximately 8 or 9 surgeries.  I had knee surgeries, open shoulder surgery including 2 screws in my left shoulder, 2 torn rotator cuffs and then Adhesive Capsulitis. There were mouth, jaw and left facial surgeries, along with 2 pacemakers and total pectoral reconstruction.  I endured many hours of MRI’s and other more invasive tests. After the pacemaker, I had to undergo the painful, barbaric and old CT Arthrograms in both shoulders and both of my knees. I can no longer have an MRI due to the pacemaker.  As far as aids for daily living, I ended up with 2 AFO’s (ankle foot orthotic braces for foot drop), a shoulder brace (for nerve damage, pain & winged scapula) for very painful Long Thoracic Nerve Neuropathy, wrist brace (R), 2 forearm/hand/wrist braces for night time, a wheelchair, seated walker, motorized scooter, forearm crutches and a cane. All of which are still used today intermittently, depending on the activity.

In 2003, I got a pacemaker because I’d been fainting constantly. I was found to have a heart issue called “Sick Sinus Node Syndrome”, along with Dysautonomia, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and Prinzmetal Angina. Later in 2005, I had a heart attack. They found it to be a very real heart attack, but it was caused from something called “Broken heart Syndrome”. For this I won’t go into details, but I was also diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and was put on blood thinners. Then in 2006, I suffered a CVA or a stroke due to the A-fib. I was put on a higher dosage of the blood thinners. Then in 2007, I had right foot surgery and came out with worse pain than before I went in. I was told that I had RSD/CRPS or “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome” in my right foot at my 6 week, post-op check up. I couldn’t believe it!  After I read up on the disease, I decided to get a second opinion. The foot/ankle Orthopedic Dr. agreed with that diagnosis and he sent me directly back to the pain clinic.  I had first gone to the pain clinic for:  cervical and lumbar herniated/bulging discs, Degenerative Disc disease, Scoliosis, Long Thoracic Nerve Neuropathy, PolyNeuropathy In Collagen Vascular disease (*which is really the same as EDS type IV-Vascular) & Chiari I etc.,right after that car accident. I went through epidural nerve blocks, trigger point injections and much more. The pain clinic saw me for those first several years but later turned me over to my G.P., because I was a patient with true high pain issues but not a candidate for an SCS (spinal cord stimulator) or an intrathecal pain pump because it was determined that I have C.I.D. or “Combined Immune Deficiency Disease”. I can contract an infection in my spine more easily than the average person and/or become paralyzed. I was put on pain medication that I had tried to refuse several times; because I was afraid of it at first. Sometimes we are afraid of the unknown and I’d never had pain medication prior to that time except for during my C-Sections. I received a letter from the pain clinic’s, Pain Psychologist, stating that “I do not have an addictive personality”. I took the pain medications and after many many attempts with bad side effects, swelling, vomiting, fainting etc.; we finally found some pain medication that helps me and it lowers my chronic & CRPS pain.

Luckily, the auto insurance paid for drivers to take me to and from the TBI rehab and all of my numerous medical appointments. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and had to endure several of those long Neuro-Psych testing sessions for years. They always ended with the same comments, which were:  “short term memory is in the toilet, problem solving difficulties, emotional difficulties (because I cry more easily), concentration is very low “, and more.  Nothing has improved very much, in those areas since that time.  As far as the TBI goes; I’ve just learned to live with it and adapt. At the time of the car accident, I was in the middle of reading the 5th “Harry Potter” book. I could not & cannot read those books any longer. When I put down a book and go back to start reading it again; I find that I’ve forgotten everything I had already read. I do best with articles and short stories now and that’s just how it is and how I’ve had to adapt. The TBI or Brain Injury Rehabilitation center did not cure me, but did teach me how to adapt and live with my brain injury. Nobody who meets me can tell that anything like that is wrong with me. But the persons around me often or those who live with me can clearly see the differences from before the MVA and now.  I cannot remember movies and can see the same movie several times.  If you tell me something today, I won’t remember it next week and probably not tomorrow. I cannot remember anything short term, unless I write it down. I don’t remember appointments or some other information that I’m told.  I feel very bad when I meet new friends, especially online “friends”.  When people have similar names, I get confused and feel embarrassed. They’ll say “remember me, from —?” But I truly don’t and I feel so bad. But if I feel comfortable, I just tell them about my TBI and ask for clarification. It’s sad because even new physicians will say “Well, at least you look good”! Or they’ll put on their report that “patient doesn’t look sickly”. What a stupid thing to put on a Dr.’s report!  I have recently been diagnosed with Gastroparesis and you can’t see it!  Suppose a person has a heart &/or lung condition, you would not “SEE” that and they might appear to be “not sickly”.  It is what’s happening on the inside, that is important.

The brain injury has caused several of my medical problems/issues as well. I was evidently born with “Arnold Chiari Malformation I” because they found it on the MRI’s s/p the MVA. But it was “sleeping”, they told me; and after the accident, it was “awakened”.  Since then,  it’s been difficult to hold my head up for long periods of time without pain and weakness. I get something called “Chiari Migraines” in back of my head and neck; which are very painful and cause nausea and at times vomiting.  I also have eye/vision problems due to the TBI, including: a Convergence Insufficiency, lowered vision,  extreme dry eyes and Nystagmus. The Convergence Insufficiency means that my eyes won’t work together as a team and get fatigued easily. The other issues are self explanatory, except the Nystagmus. It means that my eyes sometimes shake a bit, when looking to the right, left, upwards and downwards without moving my head. I’ve had punctal plugs put in my eyes several times and had prisms in my glasses s/p the MVA for a couple of years.

I went to University and graduated with honors in Sign Language Studies/Interpreting.  I worked for a local school district’s Deaf/HoH program and at a Major University hospital as an Interpreter for the Deaf; prior to my TBI & other injuiries. I went from being an Interpreter for the Deaf, to a Hard of Hearing person  with 2 hearing aids. Prior to the TBI, I remembered phone numbers and other data.  Now I depend on my smart phone, using:  Google, reminders, Notepad and “Siri” on a daily basis, along with the Calendar features.

I try to be a person who uses “Hope” as a verb. That is my slogan, as I’d said in one of my other articles. You must “do” something in order to help yourself “Keep Hope Alive”. This is a venue for me to hopefully help as many other chronic pain patients as possible. I try to be as positive as I’m able to be. But on any given day, I can feel negativity creep in as some of you do. I know we can all have that happen. It’s what we do with that negativity that matters. We can lash out at others like my ill mother did. Or we can take the negative thoughts and throw them out the window as far away from us as possible!!  Sure, there are those darker days, but like a Phoenix, we must rise up against this monster called “Chronic Pain”.

Hope Is A Verb


img_7869We all lose hope at some point in our lifetime or another. We get sad and start feeling hopeless when too many things happen all at once; that we consider to be “bad”, hurtful or depressing. We may start to feel overwhelmed and this causes some of us to lose hope. Sometimes it is the way we feel inside because of something or some “things” that others have said or done to us or said about us.  Certain words or situations might hurt our feelings or even our ego possibly? The holidays seem to bring about an overabundance of  feelings, situations and even hopelessness. At a time when Charles Dickens’ ghosts would be telling us that we need to learn from our past, live in the present and look forward to our futures. It’s not as easy as it seems. Even the Hallmark Christmas stories, have characters who, by the end of the story, are healthy, happy and hopeful. Those of us living with daily chronic pain are not immune to the difficult, hopeless feeling situations that actually multiply for us during the holidays. You see, we get these feelings on top of  debilitating pain and most often, that brings with it, several illnesses and disabilities.

You might say to yourself, “What is she talking about? Why is she writing such a “downer” as this, during what most see as a happy time of year?” I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. It is this 4 letter word “HOPE”. It can be anything you make it, if you just think about it for a moment. People want “HOPE” to be brought to them. They want it as a “gift” from God. Some others think of it as a noun or a “thing” that we are entitled to. But in my lifetime I have come to love this sometimes mysterious 4 letter word. It intrigues me so much that I wear it on a chain around my neck. I have worn HOPE around my neck for years and years. It is my favorite of all words.  I always thought that I’d get out of a bad situation if I just had “Hope”. Things will get better if I just keep “hoping”.  I always thought that if I continue to wear my “Hope” necklace, then one day I will have “HOPE”; the noun, the “thing” that others seem to have.

But I did not “get” HOPE because you cannot wait for it, for the noun or the “thing” to come to you. I have learned that “HOPE” is a verb. A verb is an “action” word.  I have found that HOPE is also an action word and you have to DO something in order to have and keep HOPE! If you keep waiting for it to come to you, that is when you will lose it. For example; as a chronic pain patient, in order to find a good Dr., one whom you trust and respect; you must continue to look. You can’t sit back and “HOPE” that others will find the Dr. for you. You must do the work of looking, hunting on the internet and reading the different reviews about many many physicians. You might have to do the tedious work of going to 3, 4 or even 5 different Dr’s before you find the right “fit” for you. But after you do the actions, then you can receive the “HOPE”.  It will be rewarding to actively do the “work” or the job of looking for and getting what you want or need for yourself. Along with this comes the feeling of accomplishment and when you put those things together, you will feel more secure, happy and hopeful.  See how it works? If you choose to do nothing, feel sorry for yourself most of the time, and let others do it all for you; then there cannot be much HOPE. If you try your best and keep making the end goal of having and keeping HOPE; making it a verb and doing the actions; I think you will be surprised at how much better you feel inside.I’m not saying that you can never feel sad, loss or grief.  It is OK to feel sad sometimes, as long as you can get yourself back in time, before the loss of hope comes.

I have an example for you, and it just happened to me during these past few weeks.  I was feeling sorry for myself and a bit hopeless. Silly as it seems, I had taken off my “HOPE” necklace and everything just appeared to be a bit bleak. I was experiencing higher pain levels because we live in Michigan and it’s been so very cold. I don’t like going out much or at all during this part of the year because of the higher pain levels along with extreme cold. But I do want to go out, because this is my favorite season of  helping others, HOPEfulness and cheer. I love the lights, the music and the Christmas trees. I usually feel happier even when staying inside with my cat in my warm, cozy chair. I enjoy drinking something hot and watching the overly dramatic Christmas movies. But these past few weeks I had been feeling down and a bit hopeless.  I was feeling that I was trying even when I didn’t feel good enough to try anymore. I continued “doing” when I didn’t feel well enough to do the things that I just wanted to do.  But I was adamant about doing those things anyways. I realized that you must stop and take a time out, when you need one. It’s OK to be sad for awhile, but just when you feel that HOPE is lost, that is when you are keeping it as a noun and something that is given to you. But things will turn around when you remember to keep HOPE as a verb. Keep it as an action word and one in which you have to do something in order to have it. When you make HOPE a verb,something always happens to change the negative feelings in your life.

Just when my HOPE was draining, I received a large envelope in the mail.  Inside was a blue folder with the seal of Michigan on it. When I opened it, I started to cry and I was ecstatic. What I held in my hands was a “Special Tribute” from the Michigan House of Representatives  and from the Governor,  Rick Snyder!  I’ll Post a photo of the “Special Tribute” here so that you can read it. I have been rewarded when I have never asked for any rewards. I received a special tribute for the advocacy work that I do and my “compassion for others”.  I don’t have any idea where it originated?  I know who signed it and sent it to me; but what, how, why me?  All I know is that I was feeling down and tired of constant pain, even though my pain is somewhat controlled. I was losing HOPE because I was waiting for someone to give it to me. I had to remember again, that it is an action of “doing something”. Though I did receive something in the mail that truly cheered up my spirits. In the end, I did something to make it happen.

Don’t lose hope because it’s not something you can “hold or touch”; it’s something that you “DO” or “act upon”. My hero was an Advocate, Helen Keller.  She was blind and Deaf, but she never gave up. She was tenacious and I strive to be like her. Especially in that I’d gone to University to be an Interpreter for the Deaf and blind. I worked at a major Hospital as an Interpreter and at magnet schools for hearing impaired children. Then, in 2002, my car was hit by a man who ran through a red light. I won’t go into the multiple injuries and surgeries. But I will tell you how ironic it was/is that I am fluent in American Sign Language. Deaf culture & ASL have always been something that I love.  As a result of the car accident, I also suffered a “Traumatic Brain Injury”.  Part of that includes hearing loss and vision issues. I have a convergence insufficiency, chronic dry eye, my own hearing aids and prescription eye drops that I must use on a daily basis in order to keep from going blind.

Whenever I feel that I’m losing HOPE, I remember all that I have been through and all that I still CAN do. I try to remember to never stop doing the actions that keep my HOPE alive. Lack of action makes hope die and that is when I remember what my “hero”, Helen Keller, once said: “Your success and happiness lies in you.  Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

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