My Turn: Post-Concussion Syndrome — a misunderstood malady
By Rosemary Wood
You have heard a lot about concussions in the news recently, mostly related to players in the NFL. What you might hear less of is “post-concussion syndrome.”
Excuse me while I shudder as I write the word.
You see, I have recently experienced firsthand this condition that produces life-altering symptoms and is generally misunderstood by the general public and, as it turns out, by a number of health-care providers.
Last spring, I had a fall and hit the back of my head hard on the ground. I was diagnosed with a concussion the following day and tried to continue with my normal activities, per doctor’s orders, with the exception of a few limitations on lifting and bending. From appearances, I looked fine and I felt fine for the majority of the time. As the days went by, however, I began having symptoms that should have alerted the doctors treating me that something was wrong.
I knew that I was in trouble when, two weeks after my accident, I was experiencing dizziness, light and noise sensitivity, several episodes of near-fainting, headache, ringing in my ears and painful spasms in my neck and torso. Things got curiouser and curiouser, as I realized that I could no longer calculate simple math problems in my head and just thinking about dates on the calendar was literally painful. And, there was no more multi-tasking for me. Only one conversation or activity at a time, please, or the results would be a throbbing headache. At my worst, I was unable to even sit up without assistance due to the dizziness.
Luckily, I got an appointment with a concussion specialist. It has been eight months now since my accident, and he tells me that I am one of his success stories. A key factor in my recovery was following the doctor’s orders for strict brain and body rest. For three weeks, I did not read, watch TV or use the computer. Most of this time was spent being quiet in a dark room. I definitely would not have made it through this time without the support of my wonderful family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who offered help, meals and prayers.
I also needed physical therapy so that I could walk again without assistance, acupuncture for my muscle spasms and an experimental drug to help me recover quicker. Yes, I am one of the success stories. Unfortunately, there are many children, teens and adults who are not getting the treatment they need. One dear friend whose son recently experienced post-concussion syndrome told me, “People don’t understand unless they’ve gone through it.”
Until a little over eight months ago, I was one who didn’t understand but now I know what can happen and will not think lightly about concussions again. Not everyone who has one will develop post-concussion syndrome. The key to prevention is getting and following the best medical advice after a blow to the head.
Rosemary Wood is a native of Salisbury and an elementary school counselor.