Concussion—Concussed—-What the hell is this? The dictionary says shock or brain injury from a blow.
I can tell you from first hand experience that the definition of concussed or concussion is no way near accurate to the actual impact felt by those that have been concussed. Unfortunately, very few people or medical professionals have knowledge or understanding of the impacts for the concussed individual.
My concussed journey began with being rear-ended by a fully loaded freight truck traveling 100 km per hour. No blood, no immediate outward visible signs. Did I lose consciousness—I do not know. I thought not, but later when asked questions, I had no answer for them, so if I didn’t lose consciousness, where was I? The ambulance attendants took me to the hospital. The ride there was hard. The light hurt my eyes, my right eye felt like it was loose and falling in. At the hospital the doctor asked me: Did you lose consciousness—-No. Where do you live? – again I gave the appropriate response, Do you know where you are? – Yes, the hospital. The doctor said I was to go home. The ambulance attendants tried to stop the doctor from releasing me. They told the doctor that my head hit the headrest so hard that the headrest broke, my shoulder made a softball size dent in the cab of the truck; the bolts that held the seat in place were sheared off. The doctor just shrugged and said she didn’t lose consciousness, she is responsive- she goes home. No cat scans, no tests. Meanwhile, I was thinking that the ambulance guys must be mixed up, I didn’t break my headrest, and what dent? Once the doctor said that I could go home: home I went. I’m still not sure how I got there or how my truck went to the shop. This was just a little blimp on my radar. Tomorrow I would rent a truck ,if necessary, and go back to work. The next day I rented a truck and off to work I went. Every site I visited, my workers kept saying you should be at home, are you sure you should be here? I kept wondering what was going on? Something was off but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Were they just trying to get rid of me, did I look bad? It never entered my head that my brain might be off. The following day, on my way to work, I was given the finger by more than one driver. What the fuck? I had never been given the finger before. I get to the first site, and my workers tell me again that they think I shouldn’t be there. I have no idea what is going on. On my way to the next site I am stopped at a stop sign. I look and there is nothing coming, nothing for miles, I have good visibility. I am half way across the intersection and I see the grill of a logging truck in my side window. Horns blaring, skidding and squealing tires. Somehow I averted that disaster. I PARKED on the side of the road. What the fuck? Am I going blind? What the fuck…….I do not know what is going on. I go home shaking from the near death experience. I am frightened, confused and this little fireball is feeling vulnerable. I don’t know if I should be laughing or crying or both in a fit of hysteria. First things first I arrive home and just make it to the bathroom. I find a half eaten orange on the back of the toilet tank. Who the hell eats in the bathroom? I don’t. I live by myself so the only explanation I can come up with is that there is this conspiracy going on to make me think I AM going crazy. I make a doctor appointment. Next day at the doctors office, I am told to take a break, from my hectic schedule and take the ferry over to the mainland to visit some friends. Not to worry this is just me needing a rest.
I have decided not to drive as that grill in the window is still unexplainable. I am lined up with all the other foot traffic, and we walk on to the car deck. From there you go up a few flights of stairs to get to the upper deck on the ferry. This is when some major problems occurred. One of the doors was closed so the no entry sign was visible. I was not going to go through that door it said no entry. I couldn’t figure out how to get up to the upper deck. One of the ferry staff, whom I knew, came over and asked me what the problem was. I told him I didn’t know how to get to the upper deck. The look I got, made me think what the fuck is going on…….. He tried to take my hand and walk me through the door. I pulled back and said I can’t go there it says no entry. I jerked loose and half landed and sat on the floor and bawled. I was humiliated, embarrassed, and so fucked up. Somehow I made it up to the upper deck. I couldn’t walk around; my balance somehow couldn’t manage the movement of the boat. A couple that I didn’t know managed to get me into the hands of my friend who was meeting me at the ferry. I was so grateful. Once in the truck and barreling done the freeway my world was altered. The movement, my vision was distorting, the sounds. We made it to their house. The movement, noise, light was driving me insane. What the fuck was going on……….
Back to the island, back to my doctor. I am pissed. I tell her what has been going on and that if she doesn’t know what is wrong with me, don’t brush it off as stress ands tell me to go visit my friends. I tell her this is not stress, something is wrong. At this point, my doctor writes histrionic in her notes. Unknown to me at the time, but it proved to be a real luxury for the ICBC lawyers in my court case. More on that later. I go home. I have a splitting headache; my right eye feels like it is loose. The pain in my eye and head continues to get worse. I go to bed. I remember waking up to a sharp pain in my head like someone just split it open with an axe. Everything was black, I couldn’t see. I groped around for the light switch. I flicked it on, still no light, the power must be off. I lay there, absorbing the pain and waiting for it to dissipate. I do not know what is going on. All these medical people keep saying I am fine. Am I going crazy? When will this end? The next morning, my speech has deteriated considerably, my right side has stopped responding to me, my sense of smell and taste are gone. My girlfriend stops in, apparently there was no power outage and she wastes no time in taking me to the doctor. The doctor prescribes drugs for stress. I try to show the doctor how the right side of my face has sagged. The doctor says no, it is the left side pulling up. My gait has changed, but the doctor is again unable to see the difference. We leave and I ask my girlfriend am I going nuts? She takes me to see my truck at the body shop. The frame is broken, they are recommending the truck be written off. However, there is a problem. ICBC is telling them that they must repair the broken frame. The body shop has told them it can’t be repaired. ICBC has come back with fix it or lose the right to do our repairs. The body shop is looking for a frame at the auto wreckers, so they are unsure when my truck will be ready. They show us the softball dent made by my right shoulder in the back of the cab. I am astounded; the dent reaches to the box. We are shown the headrest and seat bolts as well as the broken frame. They then explain that if I didn’t have the 6 sheets of ¾ inch plywood in my box, my box would have been accordion and I would be dead. My girlfriend tells me to get a lawyer. I know I have a lawyer but can’t remember the name, I do not know what to do. I pick up the phone book and on the back is a full page lawyer ad. I call the number on the ad. She takes me to the appointment. There at the lawyers’ office I am told I have a traumatic brain injury. How can that be I think, the doctor never said anything about that. The lawyer sends me to this psychologist. There I am told that I will probably never work again. I have a moderate traumatic brain injury. I am told most people see improvements after 2 years. I think, I am not most people. I know how hard I work and the determination I have. If most people take 2 years it will be 6 months tops for me. I was shooting for a couple of weeks. What do I have to do to get better I ask. Rest, take it easy is the answer. They might as well have been speaking Greek to me. Those words and sentiments have never been in my vocabulary.
I still think that they can’t be right. I am going to go to work. I do not understand what I am so tired. I have always had energy, and lots of it.
Everyone keeps mentioning how high functioning I am and remarking on my intelligence level. I have no idea why this is important. I have never seen myself as being different than anybody else. I got to where I was from hard work. Anyone could have done it if they wanted to work hard. Their tone implied oops this is gong to be tough. Little did I know.
Over the next week (3rd week) my speech progressively got slower, my ability to respond to questions had a lag time of close to 15- minutes. In my head I thought I was conversing normally, but that was not so. I was getting huge blisters on my right foot from it not responding correctly. Once when I was trying to walk to the store the ambulance attendants stopped me and asked me about all the blood coming from my shoe. I had no idea what they were talking about. I felt no pain. I looked and there was blood, with each step it squirted up and out of the back of my shoe. They took off my shoe and bandaged it and told me if I needed anything to call and they would come help me. I had so many guardian angels, I wouldn’t have survived with out their interventions. It was around this time that it was also discovered I wasn’t eating. I thought I was, I mean who doesn’t eat. I was never hungry so I must be eating. My girlfriend now made a point to come everyday and take me for something to eat. Everything tasted like sawdust, sometimes it was hard, but I ate. I knew I needed to. I was waiting for this to end. Just wake up and it would all be normal again. My girlfriend happened to notice that my gums were inflamed so off to the dentist kicking and screaming. I hate going to the dentist and I had just finished having all my dental work done and fillings replaced. Low and behold now I am told that several of my teeth are broken above the gum line and need to have root canals done. I can’t believe it how is that possible? I am told it was from the accident. Two scenarios, one you banged your face or two the force from your jaw slamming shut upon impact. Since I had no bruising on my face it was decided upon the latter as the cause. This wasn’t funny. How could so many things be wrong and yet no one from the medical community had come up with anything? Was I being screwed with? The thought crossed my mind. I had always believed that if something was wrong a doctor would fix it. I was to learn exactly how naïve I really was. Week 4— Off to my hair dresser. One look and he tells me I have a brain injury. My hair is falling out by the handful. The rest is so dry. He tells me about his injury, and that I should go see them at the Gorge rd hospital. I do not understand how this can be. I have a brain injury but not according to the doctors. By now my right eye is really sore and several more times I have had closely calls with death. I was walking out in front of traffic with no idea they were there. Twice I was bumped and knocked down in the street. I was on a collision course. I went to my ophthalmologist. I needed to know what was wrong with my eye and why I couldn’t see things. At this appointment, it was discovered I had no idea where my right eye was looking. I couldn’t tell if it moved. I was moving my head to see. Once examined he knew right away, it was serious and wrote a scathing letter to my doctor. I was to return in month so he could re-examine my eye. I had stretched and tore the sheath that holds the optic nerve. I was at risk for a bunch of stuff that I really didn’t get at the time. Bit by bit I was disintegrating, falling apart, no where to turn, no idea how to get help. Soon I get the call from my doctor to let me know I am scheduled for an appointment with a neurologist. I am so relieved. Help was finally on its way. The neurologist turned out to be the meanest SOB. He ridiculed me, rammed cotton swabs up my nostril when I said I couldn’t smell. My friend that came with me was so horrified and shocked that she was unable to respond. I left the appointment with him telling me there was nothing wrong it was all in my head. If I would have been able I WOULD HAVE SAID FUCKIN RIGHT YOU MORRON, just like it will be in yours once I work you over with a baseball bat. I knew then that I was in this journey alone. If I was going to get better I needed to learn and do all I could to help myself, it sure wasn’t coming from the medical community. Now, I’m too scared to go to the gorge.
I am scared, alone and on my own. I know I must move forward and find a way to fix this. My healing journey begins.