I guess it has been just over thirteen years since my life changed. It was a cold, grey, and wintry morning in December 1996 when Sam and I were on our way to do some errands. As I was walking towards the car to put him in his car seat, I slipped on a patch of black ice on our concrete driveway and smashed the back of my head, hard. The next thing I knew, Sam was sitting on my lap crying, everything was very fuzzy, and my head and neck really, really hurt. This is how my mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) occurred. Natasha Richardson suffered an MTBI and her outcome was quite different than mine. I will take my post-concussed life, rather than the alternative.
Somehow I managed to get to the phone and call my dear friend and neighbor, Gisele. I think I was able to remember her number because I dialed it everyday. Frank her husband answered and said Gisele wasn't around. He later said I "didn't sound right" and the next thing I remember was being in the car with him driving to the hospital. Sam had finally calmed down in the car, but Frank said he couldn't walk very well. It turned out he had a sprained ankle. From what we can piece together, I must have held Sam so he wouldn't get hurt and took the brunt of the fall. I protected his head, but my "ample" hips landed on his ankle - hence his sprain. In retrospect it was a good thing, because we lived on a fairly busy road at that time, and if he were able to walk away from me... well the outcome could have been very different. It gets even more sketchy here, because when we arrived at the hospital, I wasn't sure who Frank was. He later told me I asked him if he was my husband!
At the hospital I have no recollection of being examined, changing into a hospital gown, or having my vitals taken. The next thing I do remembered was having a doctor ask me to touch my finger to my nose. My CT was negative. With those results in hand, but loads of head and neck pain, nausea and amnesia, plus Sam's sprained ankle, we were sent home. What was offered was rest for the next 48 hours and a referral to see a neurologist in two weeks.
The next few months is, to this day, pretty blurry to me. Gisele and my ex-husband Michael kept our household running. I was pretty much out of it from what I've been told. My head and neck hurt all the time, I was so very tired I slept most of the time Gisele said, and I had a hard time concentrating on basic daily tasks. Packing lunches, getting Sarah ready for school was too much to handle, so Michael made sure Sarah had everything she needed in the morning. In the afternoons, Gisele would be there to help get Sarah off the bus, tend to her homework, dinner and basic tasks that any mom should be able to do. Thank goodness for their help!! My poor kids, Sarah was in Kindergarten and I missed most of her year. Sam, well, he had lots of cranky issues at that time anyway, so we just added this one to the pile!! (But he is turning out just fine, thank you.)
Two weeks later was my first appointment with a neurologist. Yes he said, you had a concussion, yes - your symptoms should be subsiding by now, no - we don't know how long they will last, we will just keep an eye on you. Here is some Fioricet and Elavil to help with the pain. Your symptoms should slowly decline, and we'll see you in three months. Post-concussion syndrome. Ok, I said.
I continued to "recover" at home while my head pounded, neck was horribly sore, and I couldn't concentrate on much of anything. I also had (and continue to have) dizziness, short-term memory loss, daily chronic pain, occasional irritability, and could no longer multi-task like I used to. I was getting overwhelmed very easily. Multi-tasking was one of my best features - I could do laundry, cook a pretty nice dinner, pay a few bills and help the kids with their homework, all at the same time. That's what I call multi-tasking! Now it is about choices, either we can have an easy dinner, or I pay the bills and eat cereal or sandwiches. No way can they be done in the same evening.
My relationship with the first neurologist lasted about 18 months. He just wasn't cutting it and in hind sight, I should have fired his butt long before. Take a look at this article and see if it is time for a new doctor. Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? Then I went to my GP, who gave me another referral and I worked with a new neurologists for quite some time. Not bad by my old standards, he was kind and compassionate, willing to try new medications, looked "outside the box" but was in over his head with me. Then we moved to Buffalo when things really changed. When you are ready to find that new Migraine specialist, check out our Patient Recommended Migraine and Headache Specialists list.
My current doctor has been very helpful in many ways. He is open to second opinions, he has done all my spinal taps and confirmed Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension diagnosis with the help of my ophthalmologist, and sent me to a neuro-ophthalmologist for further test. He looked for Myasthenia Gravis (MG) which my dad has (he thinks I have it, a specialist in Rochester says no, so I am going with no!) sent me to a headache clinic in Syracuse at my request to discover the disc issues in my neck. When I first saw him he called my situation "desperate" and it was time I got some help! And pretty much said post-concussion syndrome was for sure, and he would help me. But here's the thing, I still have chronic pain, and all those other symptoms I mentioned - will I have them for the duration? What about you and your post-concussion story, do you want to tell me about it? I'd love to hear it.
Post-concussion syndrome is part of post-traumatic headache. For more information, see Post-Traumatic Headache - The Basics.
© Nancy Harris Bonk
Last updated March 15, 2010.