I know a thing or two about traumatic brain injury. The death yesterday of Natasha Richardson from a simple fall, reminded me again of how much I learned last May when I sustained a serious brain bleed, fractured ribs and various other bruises and contusions.
This news story brought back bad memories of the days and months following my head long launch off the front of my bike onto a dirt trail. I still have no memory of the actual accident.
I awoke lying in the dirt, and immediately thought, “I’m going to have to walk my bike home,” and then realized I didn’t have a clue where “home” was! That’s when a kind and wise bystander stepped up and said to me, “Stay down, the ambulance is on the way.”
I weaved in and out of consciousness for the next few hours as the emergency staff assessed my condition with various X-rays and CAT scans. Every time I re-gained consciousness I would note the time on the clock up above me and think, “Wow, another hour has already passed. Amazing!”
There are only two things I remember clearly about my ER experience. One was how they had to cut off my favorite shirt, and the other was telling the nurse not to call my husband until I could speak to him personally. I knew he would totally FREAK OUT, and he did.
I then spent 24 hours in the neurosciences unit of the hospital until my brain stopped bleeding internally. The first time I tried to stand up, I passed out immediately. I still have no memory of that experience either. However, I will NEVER forget how painful the continual brain scans were because of the position of my ribs in the gurney! Laying flat on my back still hurts even today!
My recovery was slow and very painful. Just lying in bed hurt for at least a month and it was difficult to distract myself because I could not do anything with my brain. I also collected fluids around my lungs and had to have a thoracentesis in June. The long-term trauma symptoms continued for at least six months (hair loss, strange hormonal surges and bouts of unexplainable tears, etc.)
My brain slowly began to feel somewhat normal, but the long-term symptoms still disturb me even today. I occasionally have trouble remembering simple words if they are ones I don’t use regularly, and my ribs are still so sore I cannot do a proper sit-up. I think my recent lower back problems are also related.
However, the sad story of Natasha Richardson and her family reminded me again of how truly fortunate I have been. I know now that it completely depends which part of your head hits the ground first and the angle of the blow. I hit at the top of my left cheek and that cushioned my head strike. Of course my cheek bone was sore for at least eight months!
The lesson is clear: Be careful out there and PROTECT YOUR BRAIN!!!
You only get one of them!!!