WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR CONCUSSION JOURNEY
On September 28, 2016 I thought it was a regular day just like no other. I went to school then to cheerleading practice. I was the base in my stunt group so I held another girl up over my head. During practice her foot slipped and she fell on my head. My mind went blank, everything I heard was muted, my vision went black, and I didn't understand what was happening. I thought everything was fine. I was dizzy beyond measure, the only thing I could think to do was to sit down, and I did. After I could see and hear again normally I returned to practice and didn't tell anyone what had happened due to the fear they the coaches would take me out of the routine. I went home feeling foggy and still aware of the underlying situation. I was unable to do my homework and I couldn't process anything that was happening around me but still I didn't tell anyone. I returned to school the next day, took an AP test, went through my day, and forced myself to go to cheer practice again. After practice I started walking to my car, but felt like nothing around me, or my thoughts were processing. I was in a deep fog. I went home and tried to study for three tests I had the next day and it look me two hours to complete one math problem. This is when I finally told my mom. The next day I was diagnosed with a concussion and the other symptoms started presenting themselves. My headaches caused excruciating pain. I ended up taking about 15 pills a day to calm my symptoms but nothing stopped them. I missed almost three months of school, had to drop most of my classes, and was forced to stop all extra curricular activities. I was later diagnosed with post concussion syndrome. I am not the person I was before, I am unable to do the things I used to, and I still have symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from a brain injury don't push them to get better allow time. Speak up and tell something if you suspect an injury don't hesitate.
I was a 9th grader when I competed in a downhill skateboard race wearing full head protection and gear. A racer ran me off the road during the third heat. I fell into a ditch and hit my head. I was knocked unconscious. No one witnessed my crash or saw me lay in the ditch. Somehow I made it back to the road. At the ER, the CT scan didn't show any brain or neck injury. I was told to rest. Later I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. During the first 4 months I was unable to walk unassisted or talk in complete sentences. The words were stuck in my mind but would not come out. Loud noises or regular house activity increased my severe headaches. For example, my family could not use the ice dispenser unless I was in my room with the door closed. I slept during the day and was awake at night, because then it was dark and quiet without anyone around. It allowed me to control my environment to what I needed. I did not return to attending regular school until 11th grade. Now I have almost finished my senior year and will soon have my High School Diploma.
I have been dealing with chronic headaches, insomnia, and short and long term memory loss since the accident. The accident happened in October 2013.
I'm 18 I had to miss and defer my junior year after my ninth concussion. I played high level soccer for 13 years. I got my first concussion in 5th grade. Nobody was talking about concussions at that time so even though I was knocked out, my injury wasn't recognized. Ive had a headache every day since. I got my second concussion in seventh grade and it was very similar to the first. I was knocked out again in gym class and it wasn't recognized. Later during that class I was playing soccer and slide tackled. I slammed my head on the ground. I started having migraines and I was nauseated and confused. My teacher kept asking if I was ok but I said I was just tired. I had a soccer game later that day and I wasn't going to let a little headache stop me. I got my third concussion a few months later in seventh grade gym class playing floor hockey. I don't really know what happened but when I came to I was on the ground and everything was spinning. My teacher had my friend walk me up to the nurse and I was sent home.
My mom took me to the doctor and I was diagnosed with a concussion. I didn't understand how serious a concussion was so three weeks later I lied and said I was fine to continue playing soccer. Eleven months later I was in eighth grade and at soccer practice. I don't remember the 24 hours in which the event happened. My teammates told me that I was chasing a girl back and since it was December we were practicing inside. I got my feet tangled with the other girl. I fell and one side of my head hit the brick wall and I was unconscious before I hit the ground and hit my head again. It was a brief loss of consciousness. When I came to I was hallucinating and vomiting. My mom took me to the doctor a few days later and I was diagnosed with a concussion. I missed 3 months of school and 10 months of soccer. But again I missed soccer so much that even after 10 months I wasn't fully recovered but lied to be able to go back and play again. Sophomore year of high school I was playing varsity soccer. My coach was obsessed with heading and I got at least four concussions that season although there were probably more. I played the winter and spring seasons where I know I had more concussions. At the end of sophomore year I was at the doctor and I wasn't looking good. Three neurologists had to come in to look at me and finally they discovered I'd been hiding concussions. I was told I'd never play contact sports again. Unfortunately it didn't end there. I went away that summer to my overnight camp. During our color war the last week I got a concussion playing team handball. Again I was knocked out. This concussion caused me to miss a year of school. When I went back to school September 2016 I was sitting in the lounge with my friends and I banged heads with my friend. I missed a week of school but then I went back to things like usual. The school year was extremely difficult. Then a little more than two months ago I banged my head getting in the car and then a few days later I was at my friend's house and we were playing floor hockey and I was knocked out cold for an extended period of time.
I have every symptom post concussion. I have done all the therapies out there but they can only get me to a certain point before they can't do anything for me anymore.
I COULD HAVE GIVEN UP... BUT...
I could have given up, when the doctors told me, they didn't believed, that I could come 100% back to life again after my second concussion in 2011- but I didn't, I would show them that I could and today I'm 100 back!
I could have given up cause of the struggle and pain I had in 3 1/2 years - but I didn't, it was not easy but worth it. I could have giving up when I had no home after me and my boyfriend in 5 years broke up - but I didn't, I found a beautiful home and was happy and thankful.
I could have giving up, when the doctors told me I would never be able to run again - but I didn't, it took some time and training in small steps, but now I can run again like the good old days at the Police Academy. Today I had a 10 kilometers run in the forest - can't remember last time I did that.
But most importantly, on this run all these thoughts came up, and it gave me energy that I never had experienced before. The run felt easy, when I was comparing it to all the other things that I had gone through without giving up! In 2014 I was 100% fresh again and after that - my life purpose has been to help (you) people through their concussion and nothing makes more sense to me than that!
Since my biggest help in my recovery was of the food I have also written a couple of cookbooks to give you inspiration and knowledge about brainfood and soon will come an online brainfood program. Remember struggle, pain and hard times is not here to hurt you - but to serve you in the end
I believe in you and please don't give up!
With love, Ida
About 8 months ago I got my fifth concussion playing college Basketball and that resulted
in me missing my senior year because of the consequences it had on my health. For 6 straight months after my last concussion I woke up every day with a headache, dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue and those were the “good days”. During the “bad days” I was actually sick because of intense migraines, dizziness and neck pain. I had to take the whole summer off after graduation. I had to quit the job I got and for months I could not really be around people or do anything. Even though I am feeling better now, I’m still not feeling like myself, but I am staying positive that one day I will be back to 100%. As challenging as it can be sometimes, it has also given me the opportunity to discover new things I enjoy doing and it made me realize what truly matters in life and what I wanted to do.
Today marks my two year anniversary of an event I will never forget. Two years ago I sustained a minor traumatic brain injury and began a journey that I did not choose on my own. Almost one year ago I found a chiropractic neurologist who gave me hope for recovery. It is due to his expertise that I was able to do so well in continually improving this year.
But honestly it has been also due to a lot of hard work on my part.
I have spent thousands of my own dollars on alternative health care that was not covered by my health insurance.
I have brain exercises I am supposed to do every day.
I eat a nutritious diet of mostly organic meats and vegetables.
I cram a handful of supplements down my throat each morning and night.
And I have constantly had to face the psychological affects of living a life full of scary, unexplainable symptoms.
I have had to battle anxiety in a way that I had never confronted before this.
I must confess I am now sometimes afraid of normal activities. Wouldn't you be afraid if you knew that this whole nightmare could start over with another accidental hit to the head? A hit to the head that wouldn't bother anyone else?
It's a reality that I face now.
But hiding in my dark bedroom is no longer viable. I want to get out, to be free, to be experiencing.
So last weekend I went to the OB Holiday parade. I had no idea that this would be a crazy madhouse of drunken revelers, blaring lights, and obnoxious sounds. Bands were floating by, screaming chords. Lights were dazzling and sparkling. Ornate costumes, bullhorns belching, dogs dressed in Christmas attire. It was an opportunity for people watching on a grand scale. I absolutely loved it.
As the fire truck squealed its alarms at me, then a pack of motorcycles streamed by, I thought back to when these sights and sounds would have destroyed me, sent me to bed crying with a headache and shaking hands.
This past Saturday I was in it and I had the urge to leave but I fought it and enjoyed my life instead.
When I finally did drive home, I was smiling from ear to ear. This is the evidence that all of the hard work I have been doing.
In the fall of my freshman year of high school, only 2 weeks before high school soccer tryouts, I was hit in the head with a soccer ball during a tournament. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than the moment of dizziness and bloody nose. I played the rest of the game, and 2 games afterwards.
I went to a week of school, and it wasn't until the Thursday after my concussion that all the symptoms hit me. I was extremely sensitive to light, sound, and my head felt like someone was taking a jack hammer to it.
My neurologist kept telling me "any day now" and that I just needed to "give it time." A few months later, after laying in bed all day and night with closed blinds and sunglasses, I still felt awful. I was angry that no one understood my pain, and I was annoyed with my doctors who just kept telling me to be patient. Patience had never been a strong suit of mine, and this was really testing me. I felt incredibly isolated, and alone. All my high school friends were too caught up in their own lives to visit me, and they didn't understand my invisible injury. I missed all the things that I had been looking forward to that year: soccer tryouts, homecoming, movie nights with friends, all of it.
After about 6 months, I felt well enough to start going back to school part time, and even started exercising slightly. It felt so good to be back with friends, but at the same time it was so hard explaining where I had been the past 6 months. My team of doctors decided that contact sports were no longer a safe option for me, and so my soccer career ended. I was devastated, having been a soccer player my whole life.
Two years after the incident, after struggling with constant head aches and sensitivity due to Post Concussion Syndrome, I turned to rowing, a sport that maintained the competitive team environment that I craved without the head injury risk. Rowing turned out to be one of the best things I ever decided to try. I rowed for the rest of my high school years, and was recruited to the Division I rowing team at USD. Suddenly, my reputation as the "concussion girl" became the "rowing girl," and I loved it. While my concussion and recovery was a serious low point in my life, it gave me rowing, which turned out to be a huge high point.
Learning so much about why my brain was hurting during the recovery process also sparked an interest in Neuroscience. I can proudly say that I am on track to graduate in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, and hope to pursue a career in neurologic rehabilitation afterwards. TBI awareness, prevention, and support has become my passion, and I've had such an incredible time as a volunteer for SDBIF and also as a volunteer in Scripps Brain Injury Day Program.
My recovery was a long 2 years, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. This concussion brought me to rowing, brought me to USD, introduced me to Neuroscience, and gave me my lifelong passion for neurologic rehabilitation.
I urge all of you to look for the good in your recovery experience, and to hold on to your hope, even when it seems like you can't any longer. You're all so strong, and I believe with my whole heart that this is a battle you will win.
With love & strength,
"Three years ago a large wooden platform fell on top of me and changed my life forever, I just didn’t know it at the time. Over the next year I did my best to try to ignore symptoms that I was feeling. I never imagined that these symptoms were the resulting impact of a brain injury.
I remember telling family members that I felt like I was losing some of my athleticism. Growing up as a multi-sport athlete, this feeling was foreign to me. I didn’t feel as sharp on my feet, my reaction time just wasn’t what it used to be, and pressure situations I would have thrived at in the past, now terrified me. I chalked it up to getting older. I remember joking and laughing about it with friends.
One afternoon in early 2017, I was determined to prove to myself that I could still do some of the things that I once loved doing. I grabbed my longboard skateboard and headed for the neighborhood hills. As I went down the first hill, what I would have considered a warm up hill historically, I remember feeling a sense of pride as I felt like I “still had it.” After the confidence boost, I decided to step it up and try a more challenging hill. Filled with excitement, I kicked my board forward and took a running start at the top of the hill to create momentum. I jumped for the board, as I had done countless times before. As my foot hit the board, I immediately felt unstable and my body start to project forward. I hit the ground face first. Stunned initially, I got to my feet to realize that my shirt had quickly been covered in blood. I had suffered a sizable gash on my chin. As I wobbled down the street towards my house, I started to become dizzy. But I shook it off. My main concern at the time was getting my chin to stop bleeding. I now know I should have been more concerned with the wobbling and dizziness, traits I now know all too well.
After the fall I dealt with concussion-like symptoms, which at the time didn’t concern me too much. To me, concussion symptoms had become familiar, if not somewhat normal. I had experienced these symptoms numerous times throughout my athletic career. I thought I could just reduce my physical activity and relax for a week or so and I’d be fine. As my concussion symptoms started to linger, I found myself frustrated after two weeks and depressed and anxious after a month. I wasn’t recovering like I had in the past. As a result of the symptoms, my performance at work started to suffer. A job that I once excelled at started to feel impossible. Things that I used to brag about being strengths, like multi-tasking and focusing, suddenly became glaring weaknesses. The focus was replaced by confusion. The energy I once had seemed to be vanishing. What I once felt like was diminishing athleticism, clearly became a lack of balance and the daily headaches were now accompanied by dizziness.
The symptoms that I ignored so many times in the past, were now impossible to ignore. I had reached my limit. I needed answers. The next month consisted of numerous appointments with different medical professionals and eventually a brain MRI. I was told that the MRI was just part of the process and that it likely wouldn’t reveal anything. However, the MRI revealed two lesions on my cerebellum. My neurologist explained that the lesions were likely caused by the platform that had fallen on top on me and my history of concussions. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome.
I remember sitting in the doctor's office that day, realizing what “toughing out” my concussions had cost me. I felt betrayed. I felt as if the youth leagues I participated in had let me down. I don’t remember hearing the term concussion very often. Rather, the phase, “You just got your bell rung.” That dismissive attitude angers me now. No one should be encouraged to push through a hit to the head. Now as a youth sports coach myself, I can see that the culture around concussions is starting to change. However, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do.
Over the past couple years I have been extremely hesitant to tell my story. When I do talk about what I have experienced, there seems to be an immense lack of understanding. From the outside, I look fine. I don’t have a cast on my leg, or crutches to help me walk. There’s nothing that screams, “this person is struggling!” When in reality, it’s the invisible symptoms that make every day a challenge. Mornings are still greeted by numbing headaches and dizziness while the nights are filled with neuro-fatigue and lack of balance. Depression and anxiety are untimely and unwarranted symptoms I have come to be familiar with. And finally, short-term memory issues are becoming more difficult to ignore. Unfortunately, many people still apply the “tough it out” strategy to these problems and expect others to do the same. While there have been changes in the concussion culture, many are still denying the danger and impact.
Recently, spreading awareness and educating others has become a true passion for me. When one sustains a concussion, there is no “bell rung.” What if that phrase was replaced with a more honest “You just got your brain jiggled.” I’m sure more parents would be more appropriately concerned with concussions and subconcussive hits to the head. Concussions must be taken seriously. There is no “toughing out” a head injury. As an athlete, we know our body better than anyone. Never let anyone rush recovery because the body will decide when it is recovered. Everyone heals at their own pace.
The light at the end of the tunnel for me is the fact that I know I can make a difference. While going back in time and changing my situation is impossible, I know that I can help protect current and future youth athletes by speaking out. Together, we can all help change the culture around youth sports by spreading awareness and educating others."
On October 4, 2015 at the age of 15 I was in a dirt bike accident. I was riding through a field when I hit a pothole and was knocked out unconscious. I woke up covered in blood, screaming for help. It’s like the second I opened my eyes, the old me died and a new one was reborn. Along with sustaining my most severe concussion out of all of my now 7 concussions, I shattered/fractured my elbow, broke my nose & sustained neck/spine Injuries.
A year before this accident I was in an ATV accident, both times I was wearing a helmet. I sustained another concussion here. A pretty severe one compared to the ones I’ve sustained from soccer.
Last soccer season was my most recent concussion. I was in a practice when a girl standing almost directly behind me kicked the ball expecting it to go over my head, but instead it hit me directly in the back of my head and I fell to the ground. My mom & my best friend took me to the emergency room.
As someone who suffers from a bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, I wasn’t expecting an easy recovery after my accident. However, a broken bone doesn’t compare to the physical and mental pain my concussions have caused me.
Three years later I’m now a completely different person. I used to love being outside and I hung out with friends every single day after school. Now, I’m stuck in my bedroom as if it were a jail cell. No lights, no company. Just me and my bed.
I’m on medications to control my anxiety, depression, headaches as well as my mood. I get angry and irritated so easily and if it wasn’t for my meds, I feel like I would’ve made absolutely no progress from day one.
I still suffer from all the post concussion syndrome symptoms you know about. Insomnia, headaches, irritability, fatigue, confusion, short term memory loss, overstimulation, anxiety, light sensitivity, concentration issues, personality changes and the list goes on. I’ve made progress from the beginning, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been able to keep a job after 2 years of not being able to be out in public at all, and even though I’m a year late I’m finally going to be graduating high school and heading off to college next fall for physiotherapist assistant, which seemed like a near impossible accomplishment.
I know I have a long way to go and I’ll never be who I was, and I doubt ill ever be completely symptom free. But through medications, hope & learning how to cope with this me, I’m doing okay. Some days are harder than others, but I have endless amounts of support, my biggest supporter being my mom. I might be different know, but I know I’ll be okay.
November 20th, 2016 I suffered a concussion while out dirt biking. I was very spaced out and afraid afterwards.
Few months later I was cleared of concussion and went on to study and work as usual. Life resumed. But, turned out, I was not at all healed and had been grossly misdiagnosed by my doctor and other doctors.
After a while back at work and study I was getting worrying symptoms. After going to my GP about it she brushed the symptoms off as anxiety, as did other doctors too. But after deciding to go to see a neuro-optom of my own accord it turned out I have severe visual dysfunction as a result of my concussion!
So for 2 years I had doctors negate my symptoms time and time again until finally I took matters into my own hands and sought help to FINALLY get an accurate diagnosis to explain all these scary symptoms!
Symptoms such as: visual distortions, inability to process patterns (striped things really get me!), 3 dimensional distortions (things look 2D) and words floating off the page!!
I am undertaking vision therapy which has helped me enormously!! I am finally, after 2 years of struggling, able to heal my brain. Which is all I wanted!
My message is: it isn't right, but sometimes you have to FIGHT for your health. Concussion tests do no pick up major visual dysfunction. YOU have to be the barometer for your health. Trust your gut feeling and look out for YOU!"
I had 3 concussions total, but my 3rd one changed my life. On November 18th, 2017 I was playing field hockey with my club team. I was playing defense and my friend took a very unsafe shot while I was less than 5 yards away from her. Her shot went high, and the ball hit me directly on my left temple. I instantly collapsed, but got back up thinking I was fine, even though I knew I wasn’t. I had a headache, nausea, light sensitivity, problems balancing right off the bat. I was pulled from practice and my mom told me to sleep it off that night. Next day, I went to indoor track practice and attempted to run my warmup and I collapsed outside. My coach found me and pushed me to tell her what was going on and once I told her, she told me that, “I knew something was different, you weren’t acting the same as usual.” She drove me to the doctors and I got diagnosed with my concussion and referred to a concussion specialist. Once I saw my specialist, Jill Sadoski, she told me after evaluating me that “ you may never be able to step foot out on the field again.” That was the most devastating news to hear, especially if you identified yourself with your sport. For the next 10 months I rehabbed at physical therapy with my team of doctors, vision therapy, and talking my feelings out with a neuropsychologist about coping with my injury. Throughout the 10 months, I got extremely close with my physical therapists and they kept motivating me to keep pushing through and told me that my greatest strength was my stubbornness, and that my injury wasn’t permanent, it was just going to be one hell of a recovery. I entered a bridge program at 9 months when my symptoms broke and I worked with a trainer named Stephen and he helped me get in shape for field hockey season and to see if I was able to handle the intensity. Everyday after my workouts, my physical therapists would come in and see if I was still at a 0 and I got High fives every day. I was cleared 7 days before preseason and Stephen handed me my letter. Attached to the letter was a sticky note from my physical therapists saying “you defied the odds, it was one hell of a recovery, now go kick some ass at Keystone!"
At age 16, I acquired my brain injury while playing competitive basketball. I had a diffuse axonal injury which is a fancy word for shearing/tearing of brain tissue in multiple areas of the brain. This injury was going to be permanent and took a toll on my life in many ways including my ability to go to school, debilitating symptoms and of course-I had to stop playing sports. There was a big question mark on what my future looked like. Fast forward to 2016; I was graduating from university, had been living independently in Toronto for 4 years and was about to start a job at a youth homeless shelter. Once you have one head injury, you become susceptible to another- or in my case, five! Old symptoms came back to visit, new symptoms emerged and I had to completely recreate my life to account for the effects of multiple concussions. Today; I'm still working at the youth shelter, I've taken up yoga, I go to bed early because I'm so tired, I'm on medication to prevent symptoms and with that came cutting alcohol out of my life- and I'm happy. I started my @_yogabrain account as both a creative outlet as well as, a way to talk about brain injury and how yoga has helped me.
I received my concussion one day when I was attacked by a patient in the hospital. I had recently started working at the hospital while taking classes to go back to school for medical school. I was not expecting the attack, but I was even less expecting of the recovery I would endure after I sustained my concussion.
My injuries forced me to stop working and eventually stop school. As the weeks and then months of my recovery dragged on, I felt that my dream was getting further and further out of sight. I was devastated. I dealt with so much anger from all the life changes resulting from my accident. I also had to deal with the emotions from all of the changes going on within my body.
When people use the word “recovery,” we automatically think of physical recovery, but with brain injuries that recovery is so much more of a mental and emotional recovery. Recovery from a concussion feels like things are happening TO you. It is a body experience when it feels that things are out of your control. You didn’t choose to be injured. You didn’t choose to face the symptoms you now endure. You didn’t choose for all the emotions you now encounter.
Today I read a quote that said “with your health, physically and emotionally, you have two choices: cry and give up or to get up and fight like hell.
I will admit that I waited a long time after my accident before even telling people what happened. There still are people in my life who don’t know what happened or what symptoms I live with on a daily basis. I tell my story knowing that some people will listen, some people will understand, and others won’t. After sustaining a concussion, it can feel like you are alone. For a long time, I was convinced nobody would understand what it was like to be attacked while at work, and then I found it. A social media page where a healthcare provider was speaking out about their experience of sustaining a concussion while at work.
We all had different journeys that brought us to this point. No matter what your situation, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. There is always someone else who has experienced what you are going through. That doesn’t minimize your experience. That maximizes it. Because now there are two of us.
We will go through it, we will get through it, and we will fight like hell doing it.
Ana suffered from a serious accident while descending the Cerro Chipinque in Monterrey, Mexico, and unfortunately it resulted in a moderate brain contusion of which she continues to recover, and thanks to the helmet she wore, today she can tell her story!
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