Knocks on the Knoggin

In About Me, Brain Injury by Emerson Jane Browne5 Comments

Friends who read this site often ask me about how I sustained a head injury.  I looked back and realized I haven’t ever written about it.  I actually had a series of concussions.  It’s kinda embarrassing there have been so many!  But, here is the list:

6003215_mThe first two happened back when concussions and all forms of “closed head injuries” were poorly understood.

In 1979 I was in a bicycle accident in which I flew over the handle bars taking the impact on my right wrist and my chin.  I hit hard enough that I split my chin open and had many stitches.  I am sure my brain was seriously jarred.  (I also had multiple surgeries to put my wrist back together.)

Then in 1987 I was T-boned – meaning a car ran a red light and rammed into the drivers side of my vehicle.  I hit my head against the window and was diagnosed with a concussion and whiplash. 

Ironically, those two accidents happened on the same day, June 6th, 8 years apart.

Neurological damage is cumulative. The more you injure your brain the more profound and cumulative the damage can be. I never would have thought to mention those two incidents but to anyone who deals with brain injuries they think those first two accidents are quite significant.  

In 2002 I was rear-ended while my car was fully stopped.  The big mistake I made was that when I heard the guy hitting me I jammed my head against the headrest because I did not want to whiplash.  Don’t ever do that!

When the head is held still the force of the accident propels the brain back and forth in the skull.  The occipital bones are pretty sharp which is why prefrontal cortex damage is extremely common in traumatic brain injury. The prefrontal cortex houses the executive functions which are discussed in the next post.

In 2003 I did a banana-peel slip down a couple of stairs.  Instead of breaking my fall, I focused on trying not to spill the plate of food in my hands on my friend’s new furniture.  Uh, Don’t ever do that either!  I broke three vertebrae when my back hit the stair edge.  My head then collided with the floor causing yet another concussion.

In 2004 I accidentally got married.  You laugh!  It’s true!  Due to a mixture of the brain injury and my doctor being adamant that I had to take vicodin to break the chronic pain cycle my body was in by that time, I was not exactly thinking clearly.  I married a fellow in under 30 days of knowing him.  Bad move! I’d say “Don’t ever do that”, but most people probably wouldn’t! The marriage lasted less than a year but long enough to sustain more head trauma.

In 2005, while we were in our storage locker, Joel accidentally dislodged a large roll of carpet we had placed up on top of everything.  Luckily he yelled “Look out!” so I straightened up – otherwise I would probably be a quadriplegic.  As it was the carpet roll came down directly on top of my head.  Scariest (and the most painful) thing I have ever been through!  I was transported to the hospital on a backboard and diagnosed with yet another concussion as well as whiplash.  Who knew you could get whiplash from having a carpet dropped on your head?

Joel and I were moving into one of Vashon Island’s unique houses.  It had been a two-story chicken coop that was converted to a house; a large house at that.  But the second floor had essentially been a hay loft.  It had a sloping ceiling and very deep dormers.  Even the shower was built into a dormer so you had to reach for the soap at the edge of the tub then remember to back up into the dormer before standing fully upright. 

Needless to say, I bashed my head many a time.  I even remember thinking that I felt like I was doing damage to my brain but I quickly would chide myself that the thought was foolish and people would think I was silly if I ever said anything.  So I didn’t.

There were other subsequent falls or hard head bangs.  Once a person has a brain injury they are more likely to fall or misjudge a distance and hit their head.  Thankfully things are better now because I have received excellent care at the TBI rehab unit at Seattle’s Level 1 Trauma Center; Harborview Hospital.  My balance and vision are improved so I am no longer such a danger to myself.

Still, I have to be careful. I need to prevent head jarring as much as I reasonably can. The hardest thing for me in that regard is that I can no longer river raft.  (This is no longer true!!  I can raft again!!)  I used to be a river guide.  My goal was to raft the Grand Canyon by the time I was 65.  Now I will just have to be satisfied with hiking the Grand Canyon –  which I am very thankful that I can still do. (Haven’t gotten to the Grand Canyon yet but it is still on my list and I am not yet 65!)

Emerson Jane Browne
I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.
  • carrie

    You are beautiful and kind and open to share this. This makes sense as to why this “last” one knocked me down so far. I have had several as well, only none that made me a patient. Car accident last one but all tests including dMRI and neuro cog “normal”. This was 9m months after, however, And I was very high IQ before. Thank you for being there. You give hope to a lot of people out here.

  • Susan

    Thank you so much for this site. I have spent many hours reading this with tears streaming down my face………

    I have always fitted into the gifted category apparently but have just always functioned at a high level and taken it all for granted. That was what used to be “Normal”. My interpretation of that word normal has significantly changed since a truck did a U-turn into our car My NeuroPsych report and MRI were enlightening even though they were performed six months after the accident or.

    “You present so well!”

    But in discussion with my psychologist yesterday I realised that all the testing was only measuring “Normal” ie 50%.

    Just like the school curriculum is aimed at the 50%.

    Trying to measure my losses is problematic,at the best of times.
    I have given up the measuring against what I used to be like and have settled for a quiet life in the shed with my clay and in the garden. Loud noises cause incredible distress. Multi tasking is very,very difficult,keeping track of what I am doing very hard and most of the fatigue,the confusion……..

    I am glad I have me clay,my home and a loving partner…..and yes a quirky sense of humour……

    Rather than I should,I should,I should- I try and work on the I can, I can, I can.
    Keep up your excellent work!

    • ejb

      Thanks Susan. Yes. I get it. Thank goodness for art and humor.

    • Frances Heussenstamm

      Compassionate response: please stop “should-ing” on yourself. It’s a terrible source of stress. As another survivor, I am grateful for each day, and try to be helpful as much as I can. I dropped the word “should” from my vocabulary.

  • Julie

    You help me see the light so much. My TBI happened in August of 2010. I am told I am lucky to be alive, but I don’t know anything about that. I was lucky to know my husband & family only a few days after my injury & I am back doing the running & bike riding that are my “happy pills”. I’ve done some record setting half marathons & a full marathon. I’ve also done RAGBRAI which is riding my bike & camping out for an entire week. Oh, I have stories to tell, but as you describe some days we can remember & tell stories & some days we can’t. Some days I can’t even get the words out. Thanks again for keeping me working hard to keep improving!