S. Miller, a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in 2013, is ready to share her personal story for the first time. Her story is wrought with pain and trials, but is delivered in a voice that embodies strength and perseverance. Beyond her desire to share her own story with the world, she would like to remind others that those experiencing a TBI are diverse and need their own unique recognition.
AIM Services is proud to honor and support S. Miller, and all those brave souls facing the world after a brain injury. It is with your words that we will affect change and grow awareness. It is with your words that you may touch the life of someone most in need. Thank you.
AIM: Tell us about your life and career in the times before your TBI
S. Miller: I had an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) In March 2013, and before that I worked in sales and marketing. I spent 10 years of my life travelling a lot for work. Then I stopped travelling to start a family, but ended up getting divorced instead. Educationally, I have a BBA in International Business and a minor in Psychology, along with an MBA and post graduate programs in Marketing. I loved to be in nature and I used to hike often, and go to the beach every chance I got. Generally, not much of a big talker. I could go for hours without talking. Simply sitting, listening and enjoying the moment was my usual thing. Most of all I enjoyed sitting on the beach and watching clouds. And I read a lot.
AIM: Tell us about the day your TBI occurred. What exactly happened?
S. Miller: That was the day the old S. Miller died. The days prior to the AVM, I was in the process of selling my belongings with the intention to migrate to San Francisco, so my Dad could retire in Hawaii. I had my injury during the course of Friday night into early Saturday morning. On both the Thursday and Friday before, I went on a hike each day. I was learning how to identify the different plants for healing and tea making. Then the Friday evening, I met two ladies at my apartment who were interested in buying some of my stuff. Then all I remember is going to sleep. I lived alone and the following was told to me by my downstairs neighbor. She said I called her and asked her to help me dress and take me to the hospital. She said when she got to me, I had already taken a shower. She put me in a dress and a flower in my hair. My cousin said I looked beautiful when I got to the hospital. My cousin said I told her that my head exploded.
AIM: What support did you have during this life changing experience?
S. Miller: I was living in Trinidad & Tobago at that time and I had tremendous support. My cousins took care of me, as well as tremendous help from many, many people from all walks of life. It was when I came to New York that the level of support changed. It was different.
AIM: Tell us about the days and months following your TBI?
S. Miller: I was generally out of it for 3 months. I was told that I was physically moving around with help, but was mentally “not there”. I spent 3 weeks in the ICU and my family was told that there was a 1% chance of my survival and that it was in God’s hands. Then I spent the next 2 weeks, still in the hospital but out of ICU. Then the doctor sent me home in 24 hour care of nurses.
AIM: We were told that you enjoyed yoga and the outdoors prior to your TBI. How did your pervious lifestyle help you manage your new challenges and work through this experience?
S. Miller: Yes, I was very into both. I would do whatever I could in yoga. I could not, nor still do not do any downward bends or anything where I need to change the altitude level of my head. So if I am on the floor, I stay on the floor. And if I am standing, I stay standing. The nurses taught me how to use solid objects to hold onto. So I hold onto the wall or any other solid object. Still have balance issues and a few other physical challenges I am working on, and where I can use yoga to help me find my new normal.
AIM: What are some of your daily challenges due to your TBI?
S. Miller: Walking is a challenge. Because my balance is off, I tend to drift. So I use people next to me, pavements, lines, trees planted in a line. I always find something to help me get back on track. Another work in progress. Was recently told that I am walking with my feet closer together than before. Before my feet very were wide apart so I would not fall.
AIM: How did you end up in New York?
S. Miller: New York is my home state. I was living in Trinidad & Tobago at the time. When I got divorced, my father said “come home”. And I answered, “but Dad I have been enjoying myself here”. Then I had the AVM and my Dad said “It is time to come home.”
AIM: Tell us about your life today
S. Miller: I have frustrating moments where I cannot yet do any of the things I used to. Top of that list is driving and travelling. Found out the term for me is wanderlust and a free spirit. Lost that. I did try it post injury, but realized that I was not there yet. A very humbling feeling. I have sensory overload, sometimes a delayed reaction time, and then I get tired a lot. Working on it.
AIM: How did you find AIM Services?
S. Miller: I was given a list of places to find a coordinator to help me. The first place I called, never returned my calls. I kept calling and got nothing but a voicemail and no returned calls. The second place was a never ending transfer of calls. From this department to that person. One big circle with no end. I was so desperate and very tired trying. God was my constant companion through all of this. Only He knows how I made it. So at another of my frustrated and “tired trying to live” moments, I heard God say, try this one. I left a message for Diane Hall and she called me back. It felt like ‘hope’ arrived. And then she put me in touch with Lisa Costello and I exhaled; I felt caught.
AIM: What do you hope for in the future for Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness?
S. Miller: I strongly wish that survivors of Traumatic Brain Injuries are not confused with those struggling with substance abuse. Our challenges are unique and should be grouped alone.
I also want everyone to see us as intelligent people that have a bad moment and this is the result. We are not irrational, just momentarily disorientated and scared. Be our hero and help us navigate to a safe place to catch ourselves. Also, some very helpful advice I got from AVM Survivors.org, is that healing of brain injuries are in years, not days or months. So a year is nothing with a brain injury healing. Even now, most of the brain injured people who are able to articulate guidance, had injuries 10, 15, 20 etc. years ago.
AIM: Are there common misconceptions surrounding TBIs that you would like to talk about?
S. Miller: That our experiences are not due to substance abuse. Flooding, sensory overload, and challenges to speak/share are big issues for us.
AIM: What would you like to say to someone who has recently experienced a TBI?
S. Miller: Join AVM Survivors.org or any one of Ben’s Friends web groups. I was so hungry for information and help. The site is a community site where people who have been through these injuries, help each other and share information. People helping people and everyone is all over the world. The site teaches me so much and how to handle many types of issues that scare me or simply greet me. Helps me stay calm, removes the fear, and teaches me how to help myself.
AIM Services provides a program of services designed to help individuals and their loved ones live a life of greater independence, enhance social opportunities and community involvement, and have good overall health and well-being. AIM is concerned with the provision of all necessary services for this population of our community, as well as a much needed increase in overall awareness of the TBI Community. Services provided by AIM include Service Coordination, funding assistance when transitioning back into the community, independent living skills training, home and community support services, day program opportunities, provision of assistive technology, community integration counseling, environmental modifications, and social transportation. To learn more about our Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver Services, Click Here.