I have had a total of 7 concussions but there was one specifically, the first one, that changed my life.
The first time I got hit was November 15, 2008, during my freshman year of high school at basketball practice. I dove, a girl moved her knee and I smashed into it with my forehead. I was dizzy, confused, nauseated and my head was pounding.
Three weeks later, I was shooting around with a friend when a basketball hit me on the head. Since I was not symptom free from my first concussion, my symptoms only became worse. This is called second impact syndrome.
My first concussion was right before finals. I tried my best, but my grades slipped. I had problems with short-term memory, fatigue and concentration. Months passed and my pediatric neurologist prescribed bed rest and medication that caused awful side effects. Their approach was “time and rest.”I had many different symptoms — lights and noise bothered me, and my eyes hurt whenever I used the computer or watched TV. I had a constant migraine, which caused me to wake up 10 to 12 times a night in pain. Nothing helped.
I went without any improvements for over a year. I often felt as if no one, not even the doctors, believed me when I described my problems. It became apparent during the few speech and physical therapy sessions I received that their philosophy was to teach me how to deal with my symptoms, not expect any improvements. In January 2010, my family switched our insurance plan and we could go to a sports medicine doctor and a concussion rehab team. For the first time, we felt there was hope! I was evaluated by a speech therapist and a physical therapist.
I was also diagnosed with severe whiplash from my initial injury. This had never been diagnosed or treated, and I had to see a neck therapist who specialized in strengthening my neck. I went through seven months of intense physical therapy as well as 13 months of speech therapy.
The speech therapist gave me tools to help my memory, concentration and to improve my thought processing. I was also referred to a neuro-ophthalmologist who discovered previously hidden vision problems. Six weeks of vision therapy and three months of at-home online vision therapy got my eyes working together, which further decreased my headache pain.
My therapists and doctors not only believed me — they believed in me. Instead of hoping I would get better, they made it happen. I ended up missing about a year of school altogether, and was told I would not graduate with my class because I was so far behind. It seemed impossible, but I was determined to work hard to catch up. I put in numerous extra hours throughout the year. And along with my regular classes, a combination of online classes, summer school and having a home tutor, I could graduate with my class in June of 2012. I was told I would not be able to go to college yet I just finished my associates and am currently working on my Bachelors.
TBI's are invisible injuries which makes it hard for others to understand what kind of pain and obstacles someone is experiencing. It is much too easy to fall through the cracks. Half of the time I felt hopeless, helpless and misunderstood. It is important to know that there are people who understand what you are going through and that there is hope!
I was told my options were limited for my future because of my long term affects and cognitive function. However, I am happy to say that I complete my Associates and am working on my Bachelors, I am a Voice of Injury Prevention Speaker for Think First Oregon--informing others about TBI awareness and injury prevention and a starter with my friend: Jasmine Bush (who also suffered from concussions) of the 5013c non profit Team Mindfull: www.teammindfull.com. To view please click our logo below.
Concussions change you emotionally, physically and mentally. In the two years of having this concussion I lost a lot, but I have gained even more. As strange as it sounds, I’m thankful this happened.
The injuries helped shape me into a better person and have opened many opportunities.