There’s a “cuss” in Concussed

Concussion has the word “cuss” in it for a good reason. Getting one is a major headache.

Last month, my husband and I went hiking at Liberty Lake regional park, to the great joy of our border collie, Tippy. No, that’s not a muzzle. It’s a nose harness that minimizes pulling. (Also great if you want to run with your dog.)

Hiker and dog

Tippy and me, ready to hike.

In warmer weather this is a popular hike to a picturesque waterfall but Curtis and I had never done it.

Since it was a cool, rainy day we were the only hikers on the peaceful, muddy trail that follows a stream filled with snow melt. It felt great to be outside enjoying each other’s company. Hiking has always been our favorite date.

streamtrail1 trail

After a mile or two, snow and ice covered small stretches of the trail but we forged ahead. The trail is seductive. Each bend beckons, “come a little further.”

When we reached a bridge with hard-packed ice on either side I stopped to capture the beauty of the stream with this short video.

“This is a fall waiting to happen,” I said with a laugh after putting my phone away. I’m not afraid of falling. It just means you’re pushing your boundaries.

Then I slipped, the back of my head slamming into ice and rock.

I’ve broken bones, burned my cornea and given birth naturally to three children. This pain was different. It felt like someone drove a tank through my skull at 200 miles per hour.

Overwhelmed by nausea and dizziness, it took a few minutes before I could stand. When the worst of it passed I crawled back across the ice, my dog monitoring every move. Then we retraced our steps on the trail at a toddler’s pace.

I’ve signed enough sports forms to know any exertion would be a bad idea but slow was all I could manage anyway.

One ER visit, a CT scan and some hefty meds later I hoped to be back to normal in a day or two. But after watching my son’s weekend soccer games I crashed. Over the next week I slept almost around the clock and struggled with short-term memory issues, headaches, dizziness and slow thinking.

Getting concussed turned me into a 96 year old.

My doctor told me to wait until I was symptom free before trying any physical or mental exertion, then add back about 20% of my typical activity every other day unless my concussion symptoms returned. Cuss.

I couldn’t write. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t run. Each of my favorite pursuits are unfriendly for initial concussion recovery. Cuss.

At first, when I tried to run or write, even in small doses, the headaches and sleepiness came back like a boomerang. Cuss.

At 2 1/2 weeks, the fog finally lifted. I consider myself fortunate.

A dear friend still suffers from post-concussive issues following a car crash years ago. What I experienced was a little window into her long-term struggles.

It makes me appreciate that I can read again. I can write again. I can run again.

In fact, exercise may be one of the best things I can do for my brain. It’s also one of the best things I can do to prevent future falls.

While my fall was an unlikely accident, strengthening my core more is on the exercise agenda. That’s because I plan to enjoy many more hikes, runs and other active pursuits over the next several decades. I’d like to do it without cussing.

Have you ever gotten a concussion or other injury from a fall? How did that affect your activity level?


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  • Barb

    Ouch! Yes, I’d be cussing too – though in the long run thankful that it wasn’t more serious.