Care and Concussions How Patience Makes a Difference
Working in personal injury law, you’re going to see a lot of concussions. This type of brain trauma is all too common in falls, car accidents, and sports injuries —with an estimated 3 million Americans living with its debilitating effects every year. While I’ve represented many people who’ve dealt with being concussed, I’m not going to write about this condition as a lawyer. Rather, I want to share my own experience as a father who watched his youngest son’s struggle. notes when he suddenly went limp. I can’t stress enough how terrifying that phone call is — learning that your sixth-grader inexplicably lost consciousness in the middle of the day. My wife and I rushed Brett to our local hospital emergency department. A few tests revealed the truth: our boy had a concussion. before, but nothing unusual. That’s what makes concussions so dangerous — they can take time to make themselves known. Many of the symptoms of a concussion are subtle, affecting the brain, not the body. It took this first fainting spell for us to realize that there was something wrong. A couple of weeks after our initial hospital trip, a regional hospital recommended we take Brett to Riley’s Children’s Hospital for concussion-specific care, immediately. Brett couldn’t remember the moment that had concussed him. Thinking back to his football practice the day before, he had significant gaps in his memory. As time wore on, it became clear that this forgetfulness wasn’t just contained to this one moment, either. He struggled to recall information and prior events, regularly finding himself confused. And that wasn’t the only complication. On September 28, 2010, my son, Brett, abruptly passed out. He’d been sitting in class taking Brett had been fine that morning. He seemed a little sore from football practice the day
Seeking an expert opinion, we drove to Ohio tomeet with a neurologist who specializes in concussions. On the sprawling Cleveland Clinic campus, Brett became woozy. By the time we made it into the main building, he had to be carried up the stairs. Holdingmy son inmy arms as I climbed those steps, I began to realize just how tough a fight he had ahead of him. For months, I watchedmy son struggle against wounds the world couldn’t see. There was no cast, no limp, and yet every step was a battle. I’ve never had a concussionmyself, but I can say that just being there for Brett and watching his struggle was one of the most agonizing experiences of my life. I can only imagine what it was like for him. Confined to dark spaces, unable to attend school with his friends for months, dealing with unexpectedmood swings— it would be tough for anyone to bear, let alone a preteen. One day, while trying to walk, he yelled,“WHY CAN’T I BE OKAY?!”As a parent, what do you even say to that? If you have a loved one recovering from a concussion, the best advice I can give you is to summon all of your love and patience. The doctor will explain specific treatments to be followed. Your role is to help them stick to those treatments and provide a constant source of empathy. They will be irritable, they will feel alone, and they will be in pain. Just having someone there to listen to their experience in a way that acknowledges and validates them canmake all the difference in the world. It’s a very difficult job, but its importance cannot be understated. Around December, Brett’s steady recovery stalled. He was almost back to his old self but just couldn’t get over the last threshold. That’s when his neurologist told us that Brett had to be convinced that he had recovered. When dealing with this type of long-term injury, sometimes symptoms
become internalized, the doctor explained. So, I sat down withmy son and gave him the honest truth. I told him that I knew the last fewmonths had been tough and that I was so incredibly proud of him for getting through it.“But,”I said, “the doctor says it’s time to start being the person you are once again.”Brett took those words and ran with them. He picked up sports again, earning seven letters in his high school career. Now Brett’s a sophomore in college and just as active as he’s ever been. I know that it can seem like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel when dealing with concussions, but believe me when I tell you that this injury doesn’t have to define your life forever. The most important thing is to get treatment and have supportive family and friends there for you. While awareness of concussions has certainly increased in recent years, cases can still go undiagnosed. The symptoms don’t always manifest the same way, but if you experience any fogginess, confusion, or headaches after an accident or fall, you should get screened by a medical professional.
-Tom Wil son
www.wilson-law-office-elkhart.com | 1
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