I recently got a concussion at work as the result of some really bad luck and even worse timing between myself and a heavy metal door. Having no previous experience with concussions I learned some things and wanted to pass them on to you.
Take any head injury seriously.
To be honest, when I initially hurt my head it didn’t actually hurt. Looking back, I realize I lost about 10 seconds of time. I remember hitting my head, and the next thing I remember is sitting in a chair in a nearby office. I know I got there on my own, but don’t actually remember getting there.
Since I work in a school, I was promptly sent to the nurse’s office by a co-worker with coaching experience. He witnessed the whole thing and was trying to convince me I probably had a concussion. The nurses asked me a series of questions. As I was responding the lights in the room seemed to get brighter and brighter. I had a pretty good bump on my forehead, but no pain even 10 minutes after my injury. They tossed me an ice pack and began to call urgent care clinics and ERs to see where I could be seen the quickest.
By the time I got to the ER, around 30 minutes had passed. By that point, my head was throbbing worse than any migraine I ever had. I was dizzy and nauseous and the light was unbearable. It was no surprise when the doctor confirmed that I did, in fact, have a concussion. He sent me on my way with strict instructions to not go back to work for at least three days, to avoid bright lights, and to sleep as much as I wanted. You read that right. More on that now.
Sleep is your friend
Like I said, I don’t know that much about concussions; but one thing I thought I knew was to not let a person with a concussion fall asleep. There are a lot of things blurry about that day, but I remember questioning the doctor when he told me to sleep as much as I could while I was recovering. He told me the protocols for treating concussions had changed a little. Before if someone had a concussion and they slept, they were supposed to be woken up or checked on frequently. It turns out, when you injure your brain, which you do when you have a concussion, uninterrupted sleep is a great way for your brain to start to heal itself.
This news was music to my ears. I was so incredibly tired that all I wanted to do was sleep. And sleep is exactly what I did for most of the first 24 hours post-concussion. Every so often, I did hear or see my husband slowly open the bedroom door to make sure I was fine and just in fact sleeping.
Light is not your friend
I could not believe how sensitive to light I was for about two weeks post-concussion. Natural light, artificial light, the light of my phone were all so hard to deal with in the days after my injury. I didn’t even try to turn on the TV while I was at home recovering, my vision was blurry for a few days and I knew the big, bright screen would make me feel even worse. I spent a couple of days in my very dimly lit room listening to audiobooks.
When I returned to work, the fluorescent lights were too much for me to handle for the first two days. Being that I couldn’t turn all the lights off at school, I did the only thing I could think of to make it better…I wore my sunglasses. To work. At a high school. It was as cool as it sounds. Desperate times right?
Listen to your body
I had a rough go of things for about three weeks after my concussion. I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome, which seems to be a fancy way of saying your brains got scrambled and it will take a while to come back from it. I dealt with persistent, severe headaches daily for weeks. When I got a bad headache, I would retreat to my office when possible and work with the lights off and my computer screen dimmed. My doctor told me about a week after my concussion I could start working out, if I felt up to it. I gave myself an extra week before I went back to the gym. It just didn’t feel like a good idea.
Other things that helped me recover included going to sleep early when I could, drinking a ton of water, and avoiding noisy places as much as possible. Just like with most injuries, taking it easy when I could was key to getting better.
It has been about a month and a half since my concussion and there are still reminders of my concussion. I still get a whopper of a headache every once in a while. My mind still goes blank from time to time, especially when it comes to names. My eyes have a hard time adjusting after extended screen time. All that being said, the brain is amazing in its capacity to heal itself, even if it takes a while.