(First Published 2-12-2017)
“I’m sorry it’s so shit.” Is what the doctor said to me after my third visit. I was, and indeed still am, experiencing the symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome. I have decided to write this blog for a number of reasons, but my principle motivation is to make some kind of move towards understanding my current state of being, and to navigate a path back towards full health.
I do not intend to censor or abridge this experience in any way, I want this to be an account in the raw, because that is how the experience has been for me. However, I should also add that I am not writing this for any kind of sympathy or to wallow in self pity. The head trauma that I have suffered is mild. I have had two bleeds on my temporal and frontal lobes, however these bleeds have taken the form of minor contusions, and should not be confused with or compared to the kind of bleeds which cause major damage leading to significant and enduring disability.
In the first couple of weeks following the accident I made some Facebook posts. I mostly stayed in bed, felt sick, and could not really concentrate on any thing very much, but this post in particular stuck in my mind.
One week anniversary of my minor brain trauma. I have decided that I am not as robust as I thought I was. The emotional challenge of a head trauma (even a minor one) is overwhelming. Every morning begins with a sense of disappointment, fear and anger. We are so fragile and these things can happen in a moment.
Anyone who lives long term with symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) deserves a damn sight more recognition than they probably get. I am not brave or strong, and my recovery will be swift and brief. But for some these things are permanent and i can only express the utmost respect for them.
It happened on a Sunday morning playing Badminton with a friend and our two daughters. We had been going for a few weeks, and having found a healthy activity that I enjoyed, i was keen to up my game, so to speak. I wouldn’t say that we were, or are, fiercely competitive, but none of us like to lose. We were in the second half of the hour I was well warmed up and feeling pretty good about my game. I saw the shuttlecock gliding in towards the line, my opponent had already demonstrated a talent for dropping shots just inside the baseline, and I had fallen foul of this in previous games, so this was not the time for taking chances. I knew I could reach the the shot if I went for it, no time for thinking, just do. I stretched my arm to its full extent, intending to flick the target off the line and land it just the other side of the net.
Everything that followed happened in one explosive moment. I felt my ankle buckle, a proprioceptive weakness there made me vulnerable to feats of balance whilst in motion. At the time I was leaning, travelling and on one leg, all at the same time, this was too much for my ankle and it collapsed sideways, causing me to slide gracelessly through thin air towards a contrastingly all too solid wall. Because I was playing a baseline shot, I was perilously close to the wall of the gym, and the right hand side of my head took the full force. In the first two weeks afterwards, just thinking about this impact caused me a sense of panic and terror, writing this blog is an attempt to find a place in my mind for
this violent assault on my skull.
My head slammed into the gym wall and the world seemed to explode inwards and I went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes. the sense that I experienced was one of compression, burning, pain, swimming confusion and a heady sickness which seems to emanate from the sides of my through and envelope me. It was this initial impact that caused the temporal lobe bruising which rendered me partially deaf in one ear. The bruising to my frontal lobe was caused by my subsequent fall to the floor, whereupon the front right part of my head hit the deck and for a moment all was blackness.
I was probably unconscious for a couple of seconds. Afterwards, my friend told me that I had tried to get up and for all the world looked like a punch drunk boxer trying to go for one more round.
I remember seeing the three of them walking towards me, out of focus, on a slope and in slow motion, as if in a bad action film. However, this was all too real, and as I recovered some of my faculty I was gripped by the most profound sense of fear that I have ever felt. I knew what I had done, I knew what the risks were. A member of staff came to see if they could assist me and I straight away told them to call an ambulance and to tell the crew that I had sustained a head injury.
I don’t want to go into the whole tedious drama of hospital, ambulance and scans etcetera, etcetera. However, I would say that Paul was an absolute hero. He reassured me and kept me calm throughout. He followed on behind the ambulance and looked after the girls, especially my daughter, who was worried about her dad. I will never forget that kind of compassion and care. While I was waiting for some test results in a cubicle at hospital though, he did say, with a smile on his face, “you know the shot was out Dave.”