Friends who read this site often ask me about how I sustained my head injury. I looked back and realized I have never written about it.
Neurological damage is cumulative.
I actually had a series of concussions. It’s kinda embarrassing there have been so many! But sadly, because neurological damage is cumulative, the more you injure your brain the more profound and summative the damage can be. And the more injured your brain is, the more likely you are to reinjure it.
The first two diagnosed brain injuries happened back when concussions and all forms of “closed head injuries” were poorly understood. Even before those, I was a klutzy, active kid and had hit my head a lot.
The first of the documented TBIs happened many years ago when, in a bicycle accident, I flew over the handlebars. Landing resulted in a shattered wrist, cracked helmet, split open chin, and mild concussion. Ouch.
Eight years later to the day (June 6), a car ran a red light t-boning mine. In addition to a serious concussion, I also sustained severe whiplash.
Concussions add up!
Many years passed safely until I was rear-ended. When I heard the guy hitting me, I jammed my head against the headrest hoping to prevent whiplash. Bad move! Don’t ever do that! Since my head was held still, my brain took the force of the collision and went slamming back and forth inside my skull.
The resulting brain injury was the real turning point. The brain damage was more diffuse, subtle, and extensive than the previous injuries.
Just a year after being rear-ended, I did a banana-peel slip down a couple of steps. 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 and sustained another bad concussion.
Reinjuring an injured brain is very serious. Brains heal slowly so they are more fragile and sensitive for years. Plus, as I mentioned above, brain damage is cumulative. So by this time, I was not doing very well.
Then I accidentally got married.
You laugh! But it’s true!
Due to the brain injuries and vertebrae fractures, I was not exactly thinking clearly. Plus well-meaning friends pushed me into the relationship thinking the guy would take care of me. Boy did he! Unbeknownst to me, he “invested” all my retirement savings into his gambling addiction. All gone!
I also sustained quite a few brain injuries in that one short (and very long) year of marriage.
One time when we were in our storage locker, the ex accidentally dislodged a large roll of carpet we had placed up on top of all the other belongings. The carpet roll came down directly on top of my head. 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?
Ex and I lived in a rather unique house with sloping ceilings 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 far enough into the dormer before standing fully upright. I bashed my head many a time in that house.
A Danger to Myself
Once a person has a brain injury they are more likely to fall or misjudge a distance and hit their head. I definitely succumbed to both those problems! Suffice it to say, there were many falls and hard head bangs.
Somewhere during that time I caused a rear-end accident. Traffic was moving along when I glanced down into my truck looking for my water bottle for just a moment. When I looked back up, traffic had stopped due to a dog in the road. Braking as hard as I could, I still rammed the guy ahead of me, injuring both of us.
There have been the other usual knocks on the knoggins such as we all do from time to time. My brain is sadly quite sensitive to them.
Thankfully things are better now. I have received excellent care at the TBI rehab unit at Seattle’s Level 1 Trauma Center; Harborview Hospital. Though I will never have my old me back, my balance and vision are improved so I am no longer as much of 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.
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 bucket list!)