• Survivor or Caregiver

TBI One Love Survivor Ville Rämänen

Hi, I’m Ville from Finland, and I just turned 27. April 4th marks the 5 year anniversary for my traumatic brain injury (or the start of the long journey struggling with it). April 4th 2015, I was kicked in the head while playing futsal (indoor soccer on hard surface). My first memory is from the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I was sent home from the hospital the same day. They didn’t do any proper tests or anything they “should” have done.

My symptoms started later that week. Suddenly I had anxiety, I felt depressed and I had bad headaches pretty much every day. I just felt terrible in general which I didn’t do before that hit to my head. I went to the doctor who made me a prescription for depression and anxiety. Those were the two things I was diagnosed with.  So I thought that's what I'm suffering from. Didn't think more about the hit I got because I didn't know anything about traumatic brain injuries at that time.

I got more concussions later that year. Got two more in 2016, I had two in 2017 as I had a big one in February, and another one in April. Still the doctors cleared me to play. With heavy doses of painkillers though.. after that I started having really bad symptoms. That’s when I realized there's something wrong with my brain. It just hit me as I woke up from my kitchen floor one morning, with a really bad headache and having passed out while doing the dishes..

I went to see a neurologist the next day. Asked them to take an MRI of my brain, where they found out that I have had a small hemorrhage, which probably came already in 2015. It shows two small holes on my frontal lobe. So it took two years for them to get me the correct diagnosis, which was TBI. I finally started getting the proper care for my injury. I started seeing a neuropsychologist, and I still go there every week. It's been two and a half years now and it has saved my life two times over.

The doctors told me in 2017 that I will never be able to play again, and I will never be able to study anymore. At that moment, I decided I will be back. I will play one day, and get into school to become an Occupational Therapist. I made my comeback in futsal at the end of 2017. I got into school the next fall. As I continued playing, I did get a couple of concussions in 2018 and one in the beginning of 2019.

That's when I realized I have to stop playing futsal as goalkeeper, but soon after that I made the decision to start playing football (soccer) as goalkeeper again. I never had any concussions or any sort of brain trauma in football before, not at that point..

As I'm writing this I'm sorry to say that as I was preparing for my comeback which was supposed to be this spring, and will obviously not happen because of the virus situation going on all over the world. Still, as I was training for my comeback in January, I got hit by a ball which was just ice and snow. It was as hard as a bowlingball. The ball hit me in my face, and the next day and the day after that, I didn't even remember it happening at all. So I continued training normally..

3 days later I had problems with my vision and didn’t know where I was standing when I was in front of the goal. I jumped straight into the post.. I didn't hit my head but I did hit my lower back and at the same time I had a whiplash kind of motion with my neck, and after all this I was out for a couple of weeks. I was going through some really bad symptoms, and I still have a lot of them..

Now I have 9 diagnosed concussions.. I continued training in February and as I'm writing this now, on April 1st 2020, it's been just four days since my last practice and it went well. I know the next hit might be the last one. My neurologist just told me straight to my face that I'm playing with my life, and every time I go out on that field it really is a matter of life and death.

I know all this, and you can call me stupid, but it's just so hard for me to walk out of the game that I love. As I'm still able to play and I know I can play on a high level if I just stay healthy and don't get any more hits to my head, and don't get any other big injuries either. 

I just wanted to show everyone suffering with brain injuries that you can come back from anything. No matter what anyone else says. It’s been my number one priority, and I want to keep on going. During these years living with traumatic brain injury, I've been through pretty much everything that comes with it. Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, migraines, I have a headache from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep, mood swings and a lot more.

I was described a lot of different medication especially during the years before the right diagnosis. All these pills were the kind that get you easily addicted. So yeah, there was a substance abuse problem I'm not hiding behind anymore.

Today it's going better. I don't drink any alcohol anymore. It was a trigger for blackout rage attacks, where I was not in control at all. When it comes to the medication right now, I only have medication for my migraines and for my mood swings, that’s it. I know a lot of these concussions could have been avoided if I just stopped playing when I got the diagnosis, but football and playing as a goalkeeper is such a big part of me, so I just can't walk away for as long as I can play the way I can play right now.

Every time I'm out on that field whether it's training alone or playing a game THAT’S my real medicine. I feel so much better afterwards, and I don't need any other medication those days. Even after telling you all of this, I'm still saying to all of you who are in the same kind of situation not to continue playing.

There is life after sports, I just don’t know how my life looks like after my career is over. Right now I don't know where I am when it comes to continuing playing. With everything going on in the world right now, it has given me the time to think about all these things- Like what is the next step? Right now, I’m not sure.

I want to thank TBIOneLove for the awesome work you’re doing for raising awareness about TBI. For everyone reading this, stay safe and whatever you’re going through right now, thongs will get better, and the sun will shine again.

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