Category Archives: Self-Advocacy

Peta Ferguson President Brain Injury Matters

Peta Ferguson President Brain Injury Matters

Hi, my name is Peta Ferguson and I have an acquired brain injury (ABI). My

presentation today will be a combination of PowerPoint and the spoken word. I’m

not silly enough to think you’ll understand every word so you’ll probably need the

screen to get the main points. Of-course you can ask anything, anything at all at

the end of the presentation.

You can get an ABI from any number of ways; eg. a coward’s punch, disease,

anything that negatively affects the brain after birth. The long-term effects differ

widely; from being stuck in a wheelchair unable to talk to appearing totally

‘normal’. I didn’t have a car accident, a fall, was beaten up or have a stroke; no, I

took a deliberate overdose of prescription medication when I was 24. I didn’t

think of possible consequences, I just wanted out. Why? I don’t know. My parents

were both doctors, I lived in a nice house, went to a good school where I did well

and had lots of friends. Later I went to Melbourne Uni where I did Arts/Law.

I must say I am happier now than immediately before the OD but I certainly don’t

recommend trying it. It took thirty years (with a couple of exceptions) of deeply

depressing crap to get to this point, and thirty years is a long time.

Let me tell you how I got to this point:

As I said I had a really easy time at school; I was a house captain, leader of the

school orchestra and I had no problems academically. In year 12 there were

rumblings that all was not right – twice, just for a few weeks at a time, I was

admitted to psychiatric hospital for depression, but it wasn’t too earth-shattering

and I think the general consensus was teenage problems and I’d grow out of it.

I did quite well in my final exams and went straight to uni. The freedom went to

my head and studying was out of the question. I dropped out during my first year,

went straight back the following year and dropped out again. (There were no such

things as fees.)

A0fter I left the second time, I did a series of soul-destroying jobs (for me) –

mainly bar-tending. I then decided I wished to get away and hitch-hiked out of

Melbourne. I remember getting to Adelaide and tossing a coin; heads for WA and

tails for NT. It was tails so I headed up the Stuart Highway to Darwin. Now it is far

too dangerous but back then it was less so and ignorance is bliss. I hitched a lift

with a truckie just out of Alice Springs and about twelve hours further on he

stopped at a place called Daly Waters and said he was turning off the main

highway and traveling inland for about three hours to a cattle station called

McArthur River. I had no burning desire to see Darwin at that stage so I went too.

I was welcomed at the station and immediately employed as a governess for six

kids aged from five to fourteen. I only got the job because I had completed year

12, I wasn’t a great teacher, there were a lot of swimming lessons. I also worked

as a meat worker at night; they had an abattoir on the station. Back then I tied

the best sausages, not any more – fine movement problems. There’s a quick story

I must relate; I’m quite sure it wouldn’t happen now – we’re talking ages ago. I

drove into the local aboriginal town, Borraloola, a couple of hours drive away. I

said to the local cop “I want my license”. He asked me how I got to Borraloola and

when I told him I drove I got my full license for three years for $3. No P’s. After a

few months I grew bored – my father flew up and picked me up.

Back in Melbourne a guy I’d met on the station came down and asked me to move

in with him. He came on a motor bike with a mate, both wearing leathers and

beards. One look at my mother’s horrified face and I said “sure”. (I’d hate to have

me for a daughter.)

I lived with him for three years, again doing what I now view as soul-destroying

jobs, eg. waitressing and bar-tending. Then we split. I had the travel bug again only

this time I drove, as far north into Queensland as I could go before the car carked

it.

I wound up in a place called Cunnamulla, a few hundred kms west of Brisbane.

There were three pubs in town and I worked at all of them. I kept my dog behind

the bar, anyone getting too friendly had the dog to deal with.

I was twenty-four but still that big ogre of depression sometimes made its

presence felt. I tried to gas myself; I’m not sure what happened next, one of the

locals must have contacted my family. My sister drove up, collected me and I was

admitted to a looney-bin in Melbourne.

Even there I was a social butterfly, ingratiating myself with people but certainly

not developing any meaningful connections.

A couple of months down the track I took ‘THE BIG OD’. Events immediately

following are a bit hazy. I think I was in general hospital for about one month – I

wasn’t in a coma, just stupefied and totally non-communicative. I didn’t talk for

four years or walk for five years.

After general hospital I was admitted to Caulfield Rehab. As you can imagine I

wasn’t full of joy, life was over for me. To hammer home the point my boyfriend

at the time visited me with his new girlfriend and brought me a giant pink teddy-

bear because he thought of-course my mind had gone along with my speech and

my ability to walk. (Please be very mindful of this when interacting with someone

who doesn’t speak and is in a wheelchair. Steven Hawking is a good example.)

I was quite resigned to rotting in Caulfield but for some mysterious reason about

one year later I was transferred to M7, the brain trauma unit at Mont Park

Psychiatric Hospital. It has since been pulled down. It was declared unfit for

human habitation ten years before I was admitted so I wasn’t living in luxury.

I spent the next five years in this place so I have clear memories. I shall describe

the layout and my usual daily routine. M7 was one of many separate buildings

sitting on the outskirts of a large treed oval. (The buildings were hideous but the

grounds were magnificent.) M7 was a little brick building, locked to prevent

people going AWOL. There were fifteen male ‘patients’ and three females.

Because there were so few girls our beds were put at one end of the covered-in

veranda and separated from the main space, the lounge-room which had the TV

going 24/7, by a sliding screen. This proved to be a problem; there was a blind guy

who could walk, he used to tap his way along the veranda, push past the sliding

screen, lie down on the first bed he came to (mine) and promptly piss on it. As I

didn’t walk and was transferred to a stationary chair during the day I had to feel

my bed just before I got into it each night.

My daily routine; I was woken at 8, showered, breakfasted and then put in front

of the TV. My day was broken up by regular bouts of physiotherapy, I also had

weekly sessions with a psychologist and a speech therapist for a few years and at

that stage I didn’t even emit a squeak! One inmate whom I absolutely loathed (I

think this was partial motivation for me walking and talking – I wanted to get

away from him) owned the only TV so we had to watch what he wanted to watch.

‘Here’s Humphrey’ was on thirty years ago. That and the cricket; I wasn’t a fan

then but now I’m really keen. I was a captive audience, unable to walk away.

In my fifth year in Mont Park I was walking and talking. A visiting Christian couple

fell in love with me, thought I’d be a great charitable project and offered me a

room in a share house. I repaid that belief by hoarding all my medication for one

year and taking yet another OD. No negative physical consequences this time but

I again was admitted to Mont Park, this time a purely psychiatric ward.

I was sitting in the lobby with a few other patients. A guy was brought in flanked

by two psychiatric nurses. One of the patients said “He can’t be brought in here –

he’s a psych nurse himself”. I couldn’t help myself “He’s got as much right to be

looney as anyone else.”

From then on we were friends and eventually after both exiting hospital we

moved in together.

One year on, his ex-wife and mother to his three sons, handed full custody to us. I

found it ok having an instant family, though the four year old was at that stage

just strange. Several years and bulk appointments later he was diagnosed as

having Aspergers, a form of autism.

We married in 1990 (?) and six years later I had a biological child who is now 19.

In 1999 we decided to call it quits and since the total absence of kids (youngest at

school) I decided to do something for me and commenced studying Cert IV in

Disability. There I heard about the existence of Brain Injury Matters, a group, the

only one of its kind in Australia, possibly the world. It is what is called a ‘self-

advocacy group’, in other words by grouping together we learn and become

empowered, able to speak up for ourselves. I joined BIM in 2004, now I’m the

president. BIM has really helped me find my voice; when I first left the institution I

was so paranoid being heard in public I used to hand shopkeepers typewritten

notes with a list of things I wanted. Now I’m giving presentations.

My existence now is pretty good but as I said at the beginning I had to go through

thirty years of crap to reach this stage and when I say ‘crap’ I mean it.

kids-sports-brain-injury

After a head injury, ordinary things at school can bring back concussion symptoms

The online Concussion Awareness Training Tool was developed by sports injury specialist Dr. Shelina Babul at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“There’s nothing like this out there,” Babul said in an interview.                                          CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

GTY_horseback_riding_cf_160401_12x5_1600

Sports-related head injuries are increasingly gaining attention as researchers investigate long-term consequences of multiple concussions. Concerns about the neurodegenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, has put a focus on contact sports such as football and soccer.

However, a study released today by the journal Neurological Focus found that the sport that causes most traumatic brain injuries isn’t even a contact sport, it’s horseback riding. Looking at data from the National Trauma Databank between 2003 and 2012, the researchers found that equestrian sports contributed to the highest percentage of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) for adults. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

It always happens at the wrong time. You probably have heard about it, or even seen it. Stroke Survivors uncontrollably crying after a stroke.

Wolfgang Wolf BSocP (Counselling), Dip.CD

Wolfgang Wolf
BSocP (Counselling), Dip.CD

It confirmed the old truth: Every stroke is different, and so are its effects. I really do not understand why people still talk about it as “one-fits-all”. Talk to a few survivors, and you will get as many different stories as there are people. READ MORE HERE

Amy Zellmer

A TBI is much like a fingerprint or snowflake, no two are alike.

Many “outsiders” have no idea what kind of hell we are going through. They hear the word “concussion” and think it’s not big deal. Or they hear the term “traumatic brain injury” and can only imagine the most severe (think coma, bed ridden, not able to speak or walk) and figure if we’re walking and talking then we must be doing “OK.” Neither of these scenarios are correct, and I beg of you to try to understand what we’re going through. At the very least, I offer you some suggestions on how to help us cope with this stressful and frustrating time of our life. READ MORE HERE

Chicken Soup for the Soul

From a TBI Meltdown Comes New Hope

Sometimes reality taps you on the shoulder with a velvet glove, while at other times reality hits you more like a sledge hammer.

It was on a cold, overcast November day in 2010 that a teenage driver struck me while I was cycling. My bike sustained significant damage. My bike was not the only casualty that day as my brain sustained significant damage as well. There is nothing pretty about being broadsided by a car at 30+ MPH. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE CHICKEN SOUP for the SOUL