By Dominique Liboiron
No two concussions are the same. Some people experience many symptoms while others endure only a few. This article doesn’t describe anyone’s concussion in particular. It’s a fictitious example to show what it’s like to be concussed, but it’s based on facts and real-life. Personal experience, books and websites were used to write this piece as was the input of many friends, relatives, acquaintances and health professionals.
“I don’t know what happened,” Madison explained to the emergency room doctor. “Everything took place so fast and I can’t remember all the details.” Her speech was slow and dulled by confusion. Madison could recall being on her horse when suddenly the animal spooked. “Maybe the cinch pinched Cisco. He exploded without warning.”
The doctor listened to his young patient’s story with sincere interest, but he was also scanning Madison for signs of a brain injury such as dilated pupils, forgetfulness and drowsiness or nausea.
“My head hit the ground really hard, Doctor. Then, I had a metallic taste in my mouth. I looked around for Cisco, but my vision was blurry and light was flashing everywhere like fireworks in front of my eyes. I don’t know what I did next. It’s hard to remember.”
The doctor had Madison perform some balance tests and asked her to recite the numbers from 10 to one. Madison couldn’t recall what came before six and this made her very frustrated because she knew she should know. After writing notes on a clipboard, the doctor then asked Madison to continue explaining the details of her injury.
“I’m not sure how long I was on the ground before I stopped seeing stars. When I stood up, the pressure in my head was almost unbearable. That’s when the neighbour drove by and saw me stumbling in the pasture. He brought me to the hospital and drove carefully, but he ran over some of the rumble strips on the side of the road. They made the truck vibrate and my headache hurt much worse. It still hurts a lot, Doc’. Please, can you give me something for the pain?” Madison pleaded.
“I wish I could, but my concern is that a pain reliever could thin your blood and cause bleeding in your brain. I must advise against it.”
The physician kept his concussed patient in the hospital overnight for observation. Madison woke up late the following afternoon after having slept more than 14 hours. She felt nauseous, dizzy and emotional. Her teeth seemed a bit loose when she tried to eat, but had almost no appetite.
With much pain and effort, Madison got out of bed and hung a sheet over the blinds. Even though the blinds were closed, the small amount of sun piercing through was too bright and hurt her eyes. Her ears were very sensitive, too. When one of the nurses accidentally dropped Madison’s unused cutlery on the terrazzo floor, the sound of clanking metal stabbed her inner ears.
Later, the doctor returned. Madison tried to speak, but could only say three or four words in a row before needing to stop and focus on what she was trying to say.
“Madison,” the doctor started before clearing his throat. He never liked breaking bad news. It was the part of the job he struggled with. “I know that you enjoy horses very much…” Suddenly Madison felt a wave of panic and blurted out, “Are you saying I have to sell Cisco?!”
“Not at all,” replied the doctor in his most soothing tone. “It’s just that if you were to sustain another concussion before this one heals, it could potentially be a very long time before you ride again.”
Madison felt deep relief at being able to keep her horse. Besides, the thought of bouncing over the prairie literally hurt her head just thinking about it. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. She would take the time to heal so she could enjoy riding again.
After being released from the hospital, Madison felt very tired for several weeks. Florescent lights hurt her eyes so her teachers let her wear sunglasses in class. She had a hard time remembering or understanding oral instructions for her homework, but a friend wrote them down and that helped. Soon, she regained her appetite and began to feel better.
Madison’s parents were worried about future concussions, but after thinking about the matter they realized that the benefits of riding far outweighed the risks. Stopping her from returning to the saddle would be the wrong thing to do in this case. Their daughter had felt a great sense of accomplishment as she improved as a rider. Her confidence increased and her grades had gotten better. Riding kept her fit and she learned to be more responsible by having to care for Cisco.
Once she was healed, Madison adjusted her riding in order to be safer. She was cautious not to take Cisco into unfamiliar surroundings to minimize the risk of a spook. Eventually, Madison and Cisco rode many happy miles together.
This was the fifth instalment in a series devoted to sports-related concussions. Part Six is the last article. We’ll learn what you can do if you have a concussion or are recovering from one.