I wanted to follow up with more thoughts and lessons learned from my brain injury that I think are really important for all of us to be aware of.
First, you need to know I’m not competent. Granted, on a good day I’m not so competent, but compound that with a brain injury, and truly I’m a poseur. When people told me a concussion was serious, or urged me to see a doctor or take care of myself, I would nod compliantly. And that would be that. I couldn’t think straight, if at all. I couldn’t process what to do with that information and take appropriate actions then. Add the fact that it was very difficult to find clinicians to treat this, and we have someone walking around for three weeks like a glorified zombie. Lesson for everyone: force the matter. Be bossy and do whatever it takes to get your loved one or friend to a doctor’s appointment. A brain-injured person is not competent and does not make good judgments. Also, I knew I had a concussion the second it happened, but I literally could not find the word “concussion” to say out loud for three days. I kept trying to tell someone, but my brain could not label the concept. If someone tells you they hit their head, take them to get tested immediately–don’t wait until symptoms worsen.
Second, anyone can get a concussion from pretty much anything. I hit my head into a soft net. A woman bumped her head on a kitchen cabinet. My son fell off his horse last year and didn’t even hit his head–but the sudden stop of forward momentum shook his little brain around. You need to know it doesn’t require a direct blow to the head.
Third, symptoms and duration differ with everyone–it’s a very individualized experience. My son had a headache and grogginess for a couple days. Kitchen Cabinet Woman had symptoms worse than mine.
Fourth, speaking of symptoms…people assume if there are few symptoms, no brain bleed, or no loss of consciousness, then the concussion is not as serious. This myth is absolutely incorrect. Very significant cognitive deficits can occur with a normal brain scan (it doesn’t show the cellular damage) and no loss of consiousness.
Fifth, speaking of myths…I was always told you shouldn’t let someone fall asleep after a head injury. Wrong again! Rest and sleep really help in the recovery process. Click here for more myths. Read them all!
Sixth, speaking of recovery…As Claire Lenker, LCSW, CCM, Assistant Professor and Training Director at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Social Worker Extraordinaire, noted in the previous post’s comment section–there is standard of care for concussions. However, it’s not widely disseminated, even to medical professionals. She’s absolutely right: First and foremost you need to rest. That means NO physical activity at all–nothing that can increase your heart rate. Cognitive rest is needed. This means no reading, problem solving, processing thoughts, computer use, watching TV, texting (which requires hand/eye coordination), video games. Do not use your brain. This is very hard to do. See a professional who uses standardized cognitive tests to gauge progress at regular intervals. Hydrate. Hydrate. Eat more omega-3s and omega-6s. Hydrate more. Sleep as much as you possibly can. When cleared to gradually resume activity, do so slowly and cautiously. If symptoms return at all, cease and desist. Rest for a full 24 hours, and start over at step one. This is not the medical advice I received initially, which is why I suffered for longer than necessary.
What happens if you don’t follow all this sage advice? Serious cognitive, physical, and mood symptoms can last for months–six months or more. And if you hit your head again before you’ve fully recovered, that subsequent damage could be permanent. Please, be kind to your brain. Be knowledgeable and advocate for the brains of our friends and children.