How Does One Get a Concussion? My Story.

On April 16th, 2019 my daughter and I were singing along to some music while we were driving to Ikea. I'd just secured our new long awaited Exhale Academy space in Oakville and was excited to get our product shelving.   As many of you know the temporary office at the Cornwall address was lovingly being called the womb.  The new space at the Cornwall address was literally just birthed, and it was beautiful.

As we were singing for some reason, my daughter noticed a woman we drove by.  We looked over saw that she was on her phone and commented that we'd better get away from her.  I moved a lane away, and we carried on singing like it was nothing. A few minutes later, I noticed that we were coming up to an intersection with green lights, yet everyone was stopped.  As I approached closer, I saw a police vehicle with lights flashing, and I came to a stop.  I was the first person to stop in my lane; the other lanes were already backed up.  As I stopped, I looked up into the rearview mirror, and I saw it coming.  Bam! Lots happened after this.  First of all, I lost all feeling in my arms and hands.  That was scary.  Then I felt my neck, upper back, and head seize up.  Every move caused searing pain.  Thankfully the police were on site, having witnessed the entire thing. Fire Crew was there within minutes, shutting down the intersection and turning my car off.  They also took the time to secure that my body was okay and calm my daughter.   Shortly thereafter, Ambulance services were there attending to myself and my daughter.  We were in good hands.  

Despite everything, I hadn't lost my sense of humour. My daughter and I were joking at the irony of the fun we were having singing away and then being smacked in the back.  I also had a laugh with the Officer when I told him that I saw him raise his hands and bang the steering wheel right as he saw the accident occur.  I could just imagine the superlatives flying out of his mouth.  The Officer was super friendly and just kept repeating that I did what I was supposed to do.  They estimated that the other driver was going roughly 60 - 80 km per hour when they hit my vehicle, and I was at a full stop.  The irony, as I was being brought to the ambulance, I looked over at the other driver and saw that it was the same distracted driving woman!  

Why did she change 2 lanes to get behind me? Were our lives meant to intersect?  I suppose so?  Was she meant in some way to bring my life to a grinding halt! I'm certain at some point in my life, I will consider this divine intervention, however, at this moment in time, I am struggling to understand the significance.   

I was taken to the emergency room.  I spent several hours in a neck brace having to lie down completely still until I was cleared of any neck or back fractures.    Again, my daughter and I stayed light-hearted, making fun of how unattractive I looked. I was finally cleared of fractures and told I had significant whiplash and that a good course of physio and massage would bring me back to normal functioning.  

The next day I rested as I was advised.  My family doc was away so I couldn't see him until the following day.  That next morning was unbelievable.  I have never experienced anything like this before.  I was so slow in my movements and speech, I could barely lift my head, arms, or keep my eyes open. I felt like I had very little control over my body. My head was hurting so badly, and my vision was blurry.  I couldn't read. I was nauseous, dizzy, and had to hold onto the walls to walk straight.  The world was spinning, and anything that moved by my periphery would make me feel like I was going to fall over or vomit.  Everything felt foggy, and I had a hard time stringing sentences together.  

Without me saying much, my doctor diagnosed me with a concussion.  I was baffled.  I thought you had actually to hit your head for you to have a concussion.  I don't remember hitting mine.  I have since been educated that you do not have to hit your head.  The velocity of the hit to the car creates a jarring of the soft tissue of the brain that hits that hard shell of the skull that has jagged edges and causes lacerations and bruising to the brain structures and thus inflammation.

I've learned that concussions can result from car accidents, falls, fights, passing out, being near explosions, and hitting your head.   It can be the result of a direct or indirect blow to the head and end in what is deemed a mild traumatic brain injury (mtbi).  This is diagnosed by a physician's assessment of your neurological, cognitive, visual, and vestibular symptoms.  Brain imaging can be used to assist in diagnosis, either a CT scan or MRI to check for complications in your brain or fractures in your neck.  If symptoms last longer then three months an individual is diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome.  

Apparently, the 15 most common symptoms of a concussion are:

  1. Headaches that are severe and compare to migraines with sensitivity to light and sound and ebb and flow with triggers. *Yup I've got those! Every day and they are excruciating.

  2. Decreased cognitive function, including difficulty concentrating, memory loss, slow decision making, lack of focus, and inability to recall regular routine. *Yup.

  3. Lack of Coordination, including dizziness, vertigo, difficulty staying balanced and coordinated, difficulty standing up and walking a straight line. *Yup.

  4. Pupil Dilation can occur after severe trauma to the brain…not sure…

  5. Nausea, including repeated vomiting, due to the headache, balance issues, and poor vision. *Yup.

  6. Blurred Vision. *Yup.

  7. Bruising where the injury occurred. *Nope

  8. Emotional Outbursts, or rather emotional high and low swings, get easily irritated and upset, suffer from depression, or seem highly anxious or agitated. *Not outbursts, but definitely disillusioned and feeling anxious about my recovery.

  9. Slurred Speech. Because a concussion sends the brain into a spinning motion, normal speech patterns often sound slurred, incomprehensible, or the individual will have difficulty speaking. *not anymore

  10. Disrupted Sleep. Either the individual will have great difficulty getting adequate rest, or they will sleep more than usual. *yup

  11. Amnesia. Either retrograde, that is forgetting things of the past, for instance, moments around the brain injury. Alternatively, you can have an anterograde loss, which is the inability to form new memories. *immediate memory has been affected

  12. Ringing in the Ears. This is a ringing, buzzing, or hissing noise in the ears. *on and off

  13. Fatigue is considered the most common symptom and is often extreme tiredness and lack of energy that comes on from doing much less than the average person. *yes

  14. Loss of smell and taste which also effects appetite * I'm not sure?

  15. Feeling not like yourself. Feeling like they are in a fog, feeling confused, feeling delayed in their response, feeling delayed in recalling the right words, or using the incorrect languages *Yes.

Interestingly, concussion symptoms may not show immediately after the injury and in fact, will typically present themselves after two to three days.  Often worsening first before getting better.  Additionally, recovery from a concussion is painstakingly slow.

Source:  Adapted from https://www.activebeat.com/your-health/concussion-symptoms-how-do-i-know-if-i-have-a-concussion/15/