Disability Awareness: Post Concussion Syndrome
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
|This is me doing some safer skiing.|
Hello again everyone, it has been some time since we did a Disability Awareness blog. For some background, every Monday morning at Champions we have a staff member give a presentation on a certain disability and what accommodations may be required for a person living with that condition to succeed in the workplace. Many times, we will have a client who may have this condition and the learning session helps all of us here understand their position a little better.
From there, I generally take what I learn and post it here on the Champions blog as an info piece for our followers.
Unfortunately, I was in a skiing accident three months ago which left me severely concussed, unable to work and thus unable to continue my blogging activities at Champions. So in an ironic twist, after months of writing about the vast array of disabilities which exist, I acquired a disability of my own.
This was the fifth concussion of my life and thus I am no stranger to Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). It was after my third concussion - getting struck with an errant golf ball - that I first felt long term symptoms after a brain injury. Most people will experience many of the symptoms associated with PCS for 7-10 days after their concussion. However, in some first time cases, and for people with repeated head injuries, the symptoms can persist much longer.
So while I am familiar with the aftermath of dealing with a concussion, the fact that this was my fifth mild traumatic brain injury meant the symptoms were much more severe and longer lasting. The severity of the symptoms also meant that for the first time in my life I was unable to work.
My symptoms included persistent headaches, constant dizzines/fogginess, irritability, inability to concentrate, poor memory and extreme sensitivity to noise and light. Indeed, for the first month of my injury, I was often confined to lying in a dark and quiet room. The need for constant rest - often in dark spaces - can cause many people living with PCS to become anxious and depressed. While I avoided depression, I did struggle periodically with anxiety and paranoia.
I once had a person describe living with PCS as being similar to when Frodo puts on the Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings. For myself, I felt like I was living in a permanent state of being hungover/half drunk. I knew I was in trouble when I tried to go to work a few days after suffering my concussion and I walked halfway there before realizing I hadn't put on a belt or put my contact lenses in.
The hardest part of dealing with PCS is that the only real way to heal is through rest. Laying on a couch for days at a time was very frustrating when I was accustomed to working, playing hockey, skiing and being generally very social and active. What became even more frustrating is that as I rested and my symptoms began to subside, doing too much activity could cause them to immediately return. I ended up having to walk a tightrope of knowing what I could and couldn't do, or what was just too much. This meant many times I felt I could do things which I clearly shouldn't have done, and then paid the price later. When I first tried to return to work, even for just a half a day, I ended up being back in bed for four days afterwards.
It has now been over three months since my accident and I am finally returning to work full time. I am fortunate in that most of my severe symptoms have passed. However, I am still dealing with lingering memory and concentration problems. I have to write everything I do, and need to do, on paper now, and even then I can be extremely forgetful. I can't read more than a page of a novel at a time. I still don't feel anywhere near the person I was a few months ago. I begin occupational therapy next week and hopefully I can relearn, or learn new ways, of how to think/concentrate/memorize.
As part of my healing process, my family doctor asked me to not use computer screens and the internet for 5 weeks. Amazingly enough I was able to do it, and you can read my thoughts on it here.