Over the last few years, I was able spend some time with Rachel after she received a couple of concussions. She had a few moments of bad luck and knocked her head off some ice and off a dresser. The ice one left her unable to remember key peoples names for about 6 hours, the dresser turned her into a paranoid crazy person for a week or so. It was a challenge to watch because she was suffering, it was evident, and because she wasn’t normally a paranoid person. What was actually frightening about it was that SHE was convinced that she was feeling herself. Her athletic therapist friend Louise called during an argument about me trying to hurt and change her and simply told me that if Rachel wasn’t acting herself, take her to the hospital because there’s a good chance that she’s injured her brain. It took about 4 weeks for her to return to normal and her recovery was an emotional roller coaster of up and down mood, forgetting simple things and struggling to find the right words or thought.
I had the misfortune of sustaining another concussion a few weekends ago. It’s funny looking back at it because I was able to rationalize a lot of craziness that doesn’t make any sense to me now. I was messed up yet I felt like I was fine and everyone else just changed.
The injury was fairly simple, horsing around while white water rafting, and I jumped off the boat spinning and twisting all erratically. I hit the water spinning, tumbling and on the side of my head. There was a stillness when I hit the water, after a massive slam to the side of my head followed by a hissing. I remember floating up to the surface of the water thinking “oh oh, that was stupid.” I was dazed and confused as I swam back to the boat. I couldn’t hear anything from my left ear, had a head ache, was having some trouble figuring out how to get back into the raft and I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach.
We ate a few minutes later, but I had to leave a few times to throw-up. I was beginning to get irritable and a little paranoid, the sickness and headache were building and I was looking around at people wondering who they were and why I’d be in conversations with them. We got back on the boat and things continued to degrade. The head ache and sickness were becoming really bad and I thought about sitting out the next set of rapids, the Coliseum, because I had a feeling the boat was going over. I stayed on and, as expected, the boat threw-out all but one person. My next memories after feeling the boat void its contents into the river were of being underwater, eyes open looking around wondering if I was going to hit the rocks I saw coming at me or if I would be able to float to the surface. Well, I did both.
I didn’t need the second impact to make my day any worse, but I got it. We got out of the water and I puked my face off. My head was killing, my knee was opened-up and I was becoming unhinged. We get off the water about 20 minutes later and I throw-up again. We get back to the camp grounds, I go and change, get sick and start drink water hoping that I’m just dehydrated. But the camp ground isn’t the same as it was when I left. I looks the same, but I don’t belong there. I don’t know any of the people anymore, even the people I’m there with, and I have a growing level of suspicion of everyone. I begin to withdraw into myself because I feel so wrong.
At this point I start to notice that my left ear is leaking. It’s mostly a clear fluid, but there’s a little blood in it. This did not register with me at the time. Simply put, I thought “my ear is leaking. I guess it should be, I hurt it” without so much of a thought about lumping the symptoms together to get a more complete view of what was going on. Head impact leading to head ache, confusion, irritability, paranoia, nausea, and fluid leaking from the ear. I don’t realize it yet, but for the next week I am going to be this new person, someone who was very much like Rachel after she banged her head on the dresser. A confused shell of a man, small, weak, scared, in a daze, with only flashes of memories from of the time between rafting and, well, right now.
When I visited the doctor they told me my ear drum has a sizable rupture so there must have been some impact. They said it should heal within 6 weeks so my hearing should be fine but that I need to see a specialist to make sure things are normal. They didn’t think much about me not going to the hospital to get checked-out once the fluid started coming from the ear but they weren’t surprised either because if I had a concussion I wasn’t going to be thinking right. Concussions are tough to diagnose, impossible days after the fact, but based on the symptoms and what happened, there’s a good chance I had one, but we’ll never actually know.
All in all, this recovery left me feeling drained, emotionally empty, and completely confused. This was a “in the pits” type recovery that is both extremely erratic and wildly irrational. I’m more than 10 days out and this morning is the first morning since it happened that I have finally gotten a handle on what has been going on.