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:
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 into the 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.
Now, 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. Neurological damage is cumulative. The more you injure your brain the more profound the damage.
In 2002 I was rear-ended while my car was fully stopped and the other hit at fairly high speed. The big mistake I made was that when I heard the guy hitting me I jammed my head against the head rest 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 collided with the floor next to the tune of 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! Transported off the island 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 guide. My goal was to raft the Grand Canyon by the time I was 60. Now I will just have to be satisfied with hiking the Grand Canyon - which I am very thankful that I can still do.