Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Head Games

For the record, concussions suck. I've been trying to find an eloquent way to say it but I can't. They suck -  big time - and it doesn't take much to end up with one. So after more than a week off work, countless complaints and frustrations, a new mission, and a slew of people asking me questions I thought I'd share a bit about my mind jarring experience.

What happened?
A rather simple outing on a giant tube whist being pulled behind a speed boat took a rather nasty turn for the worse when I was flung off the tube after hitting the wake as I swung around the corner. The spotter tells me I was a good 3 feet above the water for around 20 feet before the tube hit the water, and when it did.... things got ugly.

I was on my stomach and when it hit the water again I bounced off the tube. Instinct told me to just release my grip and go limp. I've fallen enough times doing enough things to know that if you fight it you will seriously hurt yourself.

Unfortunately, the first thing to hit the water was the back of my head. I then folded over backwards (and as a note I am not accustomed to folding, let alone at a high rate of speed) and tumbled ass over tea kettle a few times before landing face down in the water.

Yes, I was wearing a life jacket.

Ouch. Did it hurt?
Yes. It hurt quite a bit. I remember the sound of my head hitting the water and the feeling like someone had just whacked me with a baseball bat in the back of the head. Once I got my senses, which was a few seconds and a good swallow of the lake later, everything hurt. Everything. My head felt like it had split open. I had cramps in my arms and legs, and I thought I was having a heart attack.

Then what?
The driver and spotter confirmed I had movement in my fingers and toes and pulled me into the boat. I felt dizzy, nauseous, disoriented, confused, and scared.

About a half hour after the accident I called my mother-in-law (she is a nurse). She told me to take it easy and look out for worsening symptoms and if I noticed any I should go to the hospital. A few minutes later I stood up to get some water and basically disappeared mentally for a few seconds. Off to the hospital. The doctor and asked me to do a barrage of mental and physical tests and confirmed that in his assessment I was concussed, with a mild case of whiplash as the cherry on top.

How long will it take to heal?
Another great question! Weeks. Maybe months. In the words of my family physician, "If we were in the middle of a hockey season you'd be done for the year". Nice. On top of that she told me "Don't hit your head again any time soon. I'm not even slightly joking. Another blow to the head and death becomes entirely plausible".

So what's it like living with a concussion?
It sucks. I'm not a happy camper at the moment. I can do everything but not anything. I can't exert myself or jostle my head too much. I have to walk, not run. Take the elevator, not the stairs. Limit screen time and other visual stimuli. Even after 10 days of doing absolutely nothing but stare at the wall and check in with Twitter every couple of hours I was finding that it literally hurt to think.

I was told to expect to feel confused, disoriented, and distracted for weeks. I didn't believe it. Then I tried to work. Rescheduling 5 meetings took me 30 minutes. I couldn't focus - not in terms of eyesight, but in terms of targeting what I needed to do. Things that I used to just do would out of nowhere stump me and leave me staring at my computer, lost, and that would anger and frustrate me and just make it worse.

I can do things like write, but only for an hour or so before I start to get a headache. I am finding that am capable of more right-brained activities than I am left-brained. Using the left part of my brain right now is a challenge for some reason. I don't know why that is. There's no evidence I hit more on the left side than the right, but then again who knows, a bruised brain is a bruised brain and it'll act however it damn well wants.

So what now?
I go on vacation. As my doc said, "Enjoy it. Force yourself to slow down and not think about anything. Just have a nice time and RELAX". So that's what I'm going to do. My brother is getting married in Germany and we've got an apartment for a week in Paris after that. The house/cat sitter is arranged. Work stuff is covered (thanks Jamie!) and I've got enough travel insurance to take care of any hiccup that might arise.

Is there anything I can do?
That's very kind of you to ask. The answer is yes!

If you have 100 words stashed away in your head somewhere please consider lending them to me for my new project, "1000 Word Picture". My goal is to raise money for brain injury prevention and people and families living with brain injuries.

Also, wear a helmet whenever you can, take care, and be safe.


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