On June 2, 2012, I sustained a concussion. I must admit that, like most people, I had no idea how serious a concussion can be. Over the past month, I’ve learned first-hand that a concussion is a brain injury that may take 3 to 6 months to heal.
I didn’t go to the doctor right away, because I thought I was ok at first. Here’s what happened: I was clobbered with my 1600 lb. horse’s huge head as he swung it around toward me, from under my right jaw, slamming my jaw and teeth together and driving my head up to the left. My tongue was cut on the left side from being slammed against my teeth, and my face was swollen at the connection of jaw to skull, worse on the left. My face was sore for a week or more under my cheekbones and my teeth hurt. I very nearly was knocked unconscious, and had to “shake it off” like a boxer. I got a headache immediately, and have had one every day since. The next morning I was nauseous, but didn’t really connect it at the time. I went out with friends, went walking, did all my normal stuff as though nothing had happened. Yes, my physical innjuries hurt, but I would heal. No big deal, right? It wasn’t until a friend mentioned to me that I didn’t seem myself and maybe I should go see someone about it that I seriously considered the doctor. By then I realized that everything was upsetting me, that I was getting these bad headaches when I got upset and then needed to sleep (like, immediately). I finally saw a physician’s assistant over a week after the incident, and he said I had a concussion and sent me for a CT scan to make sure I wasn’t bleeding in the brain. It was pronounced “normal.”
Imagine my surprise when I found myself continuing to get upset about the slightest things, getting headaches every time I got upset, getting headaches and blurry vision while trying to read, and not being able to concentrate for any length of time. Sleeping for 10 to 14 hours a night, with frequent daytime naps. Searching desperately for words, as though the pathways were jumbled or my brain had to take a long detour to get to where I wanted to go. At times I was confused. If someone didn’t remind me of what I was supposed to be doing (for instance, while grocery shopping), I was lost.
As my brain began to heal, I realized that I don’t remember much from the week following the injury, and people had to tell me stuff over again. I got really tired of hearing, “But I told you that last week — don’t you remember?” I struggled to find words in my normally extensive vocabulary, and sometimes had to settle for something close (but not quite right). My words would come out of my mouth in such a mixed-up way that even I had to laugh and marvel over what I had just said. I struggled to remember how to spell some simple words — an annoying handicap for a wordsmith.
I continued to have occasional nausea, amd the afternoon headaches were debilitating. I got behind in my summer course because of my symptoms, and finally had to admit to myself that I was in no shape to continue. I was allowed to drop the course late without penalty.
The emotional aspect and the duration of the concussion symptoms came as quite a surprise to me. I guess I thought I would be fine after a week or two. After some investigation, I talked with Don Brady, a psychologist who specializes in sports-related concussion ( www.donbrady.com ). He was kind enough to point me toward some articles concerning sports-related concussion, two of which you can find on his website if you are interested. Basically, I learned that I should rest, and shouldn’t be taxing my brain. That the symptoms may last months. I learned interesting stuff that I never knew about concussion, such as the fact that people over 40 don’t recover as quickly and have more post-concussion effects. That a “normal” CT scan doesn’t mean there isn’t a brain injury. That in addition to the actual site of brain trauma, the biochemical signals get all mixed up across the entire brain for a time and need to be given a chance to get back to normal. That the cognitive and emotional aspects of concussion (which is a brain injury) are often not taken into account, and that the brain needs time to heal.
It has been almost a month since my horse gave me what was essentially a left uppercut to the jaw with several hundred pounds of force behind it. I am lucky that I was not injured more severely. But it has taken me this long to feel able to write about it, and the headaches continue, especially when I get emotional or spend too much time using my eyes and brain. The word salad seems to be correcting itself now, and I am not quite so exhausted every day. I feel that I can slowly start adding back my responsibilities and client load. I am scheduled to see a neurologist and an eye doctor. A friend has also recommended an acupuncturist.
I feel much more like myself, improving daily, but I’m still just one click off the dial. The experts say that time and rest (and jigsaw puzzles) are the answer. In the meantime, I have to write lists for myself, and hope that the people I forget to call or email back are understanding.
Oh, and I keep forgetting to re-schedule a missed grooming appointment for my dog, Connor, so I’m off to do that now while it’s on my mind. 🙂