You would hardly think that I would be the person telling you that getting the best treatment for concussion is important and that not everyone gets appropriate treatment for concussion in the U.S. (or Canada and other countries for that matter). When I had my concussion, I had the life that I loved to live. I didn’t have time for a concussion and I really did not have time for persistent symptoms.
Frankly, I didn’t know how damaging a concussion/mild Traumatic Brain Injury could be when I first had my concussion, and neither did those around me. I was in a car accident by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. I was driving and trying to merge onto Rock Creek Parkway when I was hit from behind.
I was coming off a ramp from the Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River and the road I was merging into runs very close to the path of the ramp. To merge, I had to move my head as far to the left as possible to look over my left shoulder at the light on the road I was merging into to see the cars. When my car was hit by the jeep behind me, my head went from side-to-side and then back to forth (called a coup-contre-coup).
My brain was shaken inside my skull. Neural pathways were either stretched or broken. I may have lost consciousness briefly.
I did NOT hit my head on the steering wheel or the windshield. I did NOT have a coma. There was NO blood.
I did have headaches when I went to work on Monday, so my colleagues suggested that I do to the doctor after I told them I had been in a car accident. I was not making that connection myself. When my symptoms worsened, my doctor sent me to a neurologist who diagnosed me with mild traumatic brain injury. I did not understand what “traumatic brain injury” meant or could mean to me. I felt comforted by the word “mild”. At least I knew what mild meant–short lasting and not very bad. Or so I thought.
When I first saw the primary care doctor and then later the neurologist, I was fully expecting to continue my life as I knew it. I loved my work and had exciting research to do. I had my sports that I loved (coaching kids soccer and playing volleyball) and I had an active social life.
I remember being bummed at the thought of waiting for a couple of weeks to return to sports. When I first saw the primary care doctor, he said he wanted to keep me under observation. He said not want me to play volleyball until he cleared me for it because he was concerned I might jostle my head further. I was bummed because sand volleyball season had started on the Washington Mall and I had already been waiting until the kids soccer team’s season ended before I started it. The previous year, our sand volleyball team won the trophy for the league and I was looking forward to playing again.
But my life did not continue as I expected. In fact, far from it.
And so here I am telling you, about 15 years later, about my experiences with trying to recover from concussion/mild traumatic brain injury.
My experiences have led me to know first-hand that:
–there can be persistent symptoms from concussion/mild traumatic brain injury,
–that it’s really important to get the best treatment possible to minimize the possibility of long term symptoms, and
–that it can be quite difficult to get appropriate treatment for concussion/mild traumatic brain injury around the world.