My Concussion Story
This is a post that I have been thinking of writing for awhile now. It is completely unrelated to tech, but is no less important to me.
It has been in the back of my mind for the last several months. I felt I would get to writing it when I felt 100%, which unfortunately seems to keep dragging on. Leaving 2016 behind and looking forward to 2017 seems as good a time as any to reflect.
This is pretty personal for me, and I hope to explain things better in writing than I could ever do in person. I'm not even really sure why I'm writing it. It could be for you, or it could be for allowing myself to see how far I've come from a scary place.
Over the past year or so, I've spent a lot of time in my head trying to figure out what's going wrong with my body. I don't even know what it is like to feel "normal".
I plan to share my journey in a detailed, non-sugar-coated way.
My Concussion History
A concussion is something that I had always feared would end my hockey career. You see I have had at least three previous major concussions that I know of. I'll spare the details of these but in all of the cases I was knocked out for a short period of time, and even spent the night in the hospital for one.
In these cases luckily I returned to health fairly quickly, but this latest one has been a different story.
On a side note, if you've ever wondered what the scar on my left cheek was from and were afraid to ask, you now have an answer.
Tuesday November 10, 2015
If you've known me for any length of time, you will know how much I love playing hockey. This game was just like any other one. That was until there was about 5 minutes left and my eyes went a bit blotchy (my usual sign for a migraine). It was then that I knew that I had probably just had another concussion.
After the game I hung around with the guys in the dressing room, which might have be unwise seeing as though I should have seen the intense migraine coming. I drove home and immediately went to bed. I also vaguely remember vomiting multiple times.
Wednesday November 11, 2015
Luckily for me the following day was a holiday so I didn't have to go into work. I spent the day recovering and didn't even feel too bad. Phef, it might have just been a headache or something.
I proceeded to go to work on Thursday and Friday and actually felt pretty good.
Saturday November 14, 2015
Then on Saturday was our next game. If you've played with me you know I don't miss many hockey games; and I was determined to play again.
I figured a good litmus test would be to hit the gym for some light work and see how I feel. I remember doing some squats and feeling decent but a little off. I texted my coach saying
I won't be there tonight. You see I didn't want people to know I might have a concussion, and also wanted to avoid any questions.
Later that night my brother came over, and we were watching some UFC fight. I think it was even the one where Rhonda Rousey got knocked out in surprising fashion. I remember feeling something hard to describe, kind of like an electric feeling on the sides of my head. It could have even felt a bit like something crawling in my skull. This really scared me, and I felt so anxious. Anxious barely describes it, maybe paranoid is a better term. I definitely had thoughts that I was going to die that night.
Monday November 16, 2015
The following Monday I went to work. During the morning standup I couldn't focus and I was super anxious again. The stinging sensation was also back. I remember heading to the washroom to gather my thoughts and trying not to let anyone know how I was feeling. I found my eyes were pretty red, but figured the feeling would pass. I went back to my desk to work, but shortly after it got worse. I recall walking over to my manager saying something like
I think I have a concussion, and have to go home. I grabbed my stuff and headed to my vehicle where I must have been nearly in tears. I called my Mom in a desperate voice, and asked if I should go to a doctor. After our conversation I headed to the doctor where they did some tests, but eventually let me go saying all I could do was rest. I immediately went home and went to bed. I ended up taking a few days off of work, but I was pretty intent on pushing through things and getting back quickly.
The Search For Answers
Concussions are mostly a waiting game you see. I remember getting a second opinion with another doctor and getting told to wait a couple weeks to see if things improve.
I took this advice, but realized shortly after that this latest concussion was a lot different than my previous ones. I don't want to go too much into biology, but your body has nerves which pass messages from your brain to all areas of the body. In my case, all I knew was that it felt like nearly everything in my body was malfunctioning.
The most serious was hampered blood flow to the brain. This caused the symptoms to crop up on that monday morning. I found myself quite frequently with brain fog, severe anxiety about my health, and a low grade headache.
You would think the symptoms would end there but the following is a quick dump of other things that have bothered me at various times.
• Nausea / Dizziness
• Head Pressure
• Chronic Daily Neck Pain
• Electric stinging feeling in neck (hard to explain)
• All kinds of sinus wackiness
• Times when I felt I was having a heart attack
• Digestive problems
An Answer (maybe?)
During this time (maybe not so wisely) I was constantly researching my symptoms and freaking out a little more each time. I finally deduced I was experiencing some kind of "cervicogenic headache". So I followed that up by trying to find anyone who could help me with this pain, and ended up at Thrive Chiropractic in Winnipeg.
On my first visit, I remember him testing my peripheral vision which made me feel super nauseated. Then he proceeded to do a scan of my neck to see what was going on. This was a first for me, seeing as how all chiropractors I had been to previously basically just adjusted based on a whim.
What he found was significant and devastating. He explained how the top 2 vertebrae in my neck (C1, and C2) were both ajar and spun in different directions. In most cases it is one or the other that is misaligned. He then went on to present a plan of getting things fixed. He told me that I need to start coming in 3 days a week at the start.
I tentatively agreed. What other choice did I have? Going through my head at the time were thoughts of wondering how close I might have been to being paralyzed. I know how important the neck is.
Once I got home, I then began working out the logistics of how this would work seeing as I didn't want to miss work. At the time I was working in Île-des-Chênes, and living in Rosenort.
So for about 4 weeks I ended up driving about 45 minutes to be at the chiropractor for 8:30AM; and then drive about 30 minutes and quickly try and get to work for 9:30AM. This made my days pretty hectic with lots of driving around, but in some ways I look back and think it worked out all right. I had switched jobs the previous June, which took me closer to the city. Not sure what I would have done if I worked in Morris, and had to head into the city for treatment.
I thought I had the answer to my problem, and that following a plan was all that was needed to get 100% healthy. Little did I know how long of a process it would be. We first began by adjusting C1 as that vertebra controls blood flow to the brain, and was deemed most important. After a few weeks of seeing a minor difference, he decided to switch to adjusting the C2.
This is when my body started throwing a whole bunch of new things at me. I remember feeling my neck moving around, and it sometimes felt as if my throat was closing up. There is really no word to describe it, but it freaked me out. I would then usually have to calm myself down in front of the mirror, and persuade myself that I can get through this.
I also had nights where I would go to bed, and experience some pretty severe twitching which lasted for probably 10+ minutes. It was explained to me that this was just the nerves healing after a long time of being limited. This hardly eased the anxiety, but it's pretty crazy what you get used to over time.
My days back then were mostly spent getting treatment, going to work, and then plopping down on the floor with a pillow supporting my neck. It just felt like my head/neck was too heavy. Along with that there was a constant kink that I couldn't remove. I'd also throw on a heating pad, or take a hot shower to try and release all the tight muscles.
I doubt people knew what I was all going through, as it was obviously something I didn't want to talk about being that I was trying to just forget the pain for as long as I could.
Shoulder Surgery - April 19, 2016
This post wouldn't be complete without at least mentioning my shoulder surgery that happened during this time. I had the fear that this surgery would delay my neck recovery even more. I had booked off 2 weeks of work, and was not looking forward to needing help to do the most basic things. Tying shoes, putting on a shirt, and sleeping became nearly impossible. After 2 weeks I was getting pretty ansy, and decided to get back to work. Typing with one hand proved challenging, but I made the best of it. My first day back at the office just happened to be a good friend's last day which made me even more grateful to be back doing what I enjoy.
The Recovery (Ongoing)...
I still don't feel 100% as I still have chronic neck pain, but glad most of the severe symptoms I used to have are now gone or at least minimalized. I am able to go to work, and not worry too much about my neck. After work is where it is sometimes a bit sore.
I am also able to run, and lift weights at the gym with little symptoms. Both of these things were impossible only a few months ago.
My full contact hockey career looks to be over, but I have been able to play some rec hockey in my local area without feeling too bad. Having my favourite sport in some ways taken away from me has been difficult.
I don't feel out of the woods yet by any means. I am still having some headaches, and other weird symptoms. I truly feel like I've experienced a little bit of everything.
Hopefully the experience has made me stronger as a person. I plan to not accept anything less than 100% health, and will keep pursuing that goal.
I'd like to thank my family for always being there and putting up with my constant complaints. I'd also like to thank my current company for being generous in letting me have time off when I needed it; and lastly to all the people that have helped with my treatments. My chiropractor, massage therapist, physio, and numerous doctors.
Who knows where I'd be without all you :)
Thoughts? Hit me up on twitter @brenelz
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