The posts about my personal concussion story have been less frequent, so I thought I’d recap my timeline before I start writing about the most exciting part of my recovery.
- I suffered my concussion during a hockey game at Yale in November 2013.
- I sought out various doctors and treatments for the next nine months, without any luck, until I started my job in October 2014 after being told that my symptoms would not get any worse with work.
- I stopped working in December 2014, thirteen months since suffering my concussion, when my symptoms became so severe that I couldn’t get out of bed.
- January 2015 I got prolotherapy injections in my neck, which triggered an exaggerated sympathetic nervous system response in my brain, causing the most debilitating symptoms I’ve ever experienced.
- By May 2015, after spending four months confined to my bed without any answers as to what was going on with my body, I finally began to get on the right track after a visit to Dr. Kutcher’s Sports Neurology Clinic in Michigan.
- I spent an additional two weeks there in July 2015 learning more about my injuries and adding to my rehab plan.
- From July until December 2015 I stuck with my rehab plan and continued babysitting and coaching part time.
Hitting a Plateau
From the start of my rehab in May to the following December, I definitely made progress, but not as much as I would have hoped in an eight month timespan. Thanks to my rehab I could tolerate getting out of bed a few hours a day, I no longer walked with a limp, I twitched less, I could feel the left side of my body again and the pain intensity in my head, arms and legs had decreased. Even though the pain was down, however, it was still always there and still left me fairly handicapped.
Throughout my days I was constantly – literally constantly – looking for opportunities to escape to a bed, a couch or a reclined seat to just rest. Whenever I babysat Colton, I’d play games with him while lying down to avoid putting added pressure on my highly volatile neck muscles. It took every ounce of self-discipline I had to get through a 90-minute field hockey practice without taking a break to lay in my car. When I drove I put the seat as far back as I could to take even the slightest amount of pressure off my neck in order to control my headaches.
This kind of lifestyle wasn’t sustainable.
I was just barely scraping by, though I was so much better than I was the first four months of 2015. I felt like I couldn’t really complain, but I also knew I had hit a plateau.
By that point, I was already a couple months into this blog. Publicly sharing my story was important for me. I’ve always viewed writing as a therapeutic activity, and being able to verbalize my struggle and share it with others was one way for me to try to be at peace with everything I had been through. It has helped me come to terms with all that happened – the bad advice, the setbacks, the physical and emotional trauma, the complete and utter failure of the medical community. All the precious time that was taken from me while I spent my days in bed. The helplessness and self-doubt that had been conspicuously thrust upon me with each meaningless doctors appointment.
I couldn’t sit with the idea that there were so many others out there fighting this exact same battle and had no where to turn. I felt certain many of them had received the blank yet condescending stares from doctors, or the “it’s all in your head” diagnoses. I wanted to, in some small way, be a resource for those people. At the very least I wanted to connect with them and help them feel a little less alone with this struggle.
So I started this blog to try and help others, but I honestly didn’t expect someone else to come along from reading my blog, and help me instead.
Some Luck and A New Approach
Brenda Semke came across my blog on a Facebook concussion support group and reached out to me. Her son, Ryan, had had an eerily similar concussion experience as my own. Over the course of three years Ryan had tried all the large-scale, reputable concussion clinics where no one took his neck issues seriously. And just like me, in desperation and a complete lack of guidance, he resorted to a series of nerve-block injections in his neck, which exacerbated his existing symptoms and added many more to his already long list.
This was the very same nightmare I had been living.
Ryan’s mom told me about a concussion program in Canada that had helped Ryan, but I didn’t think much of it until he and I talked on the phone to discuss our experiences. Ryan was interested in hearing about the rehab plan I was on, but pretty soon I was gnawing for information about the program that was helping him make so much progress.
He told me that a man named Terry Moore runs a concussion-focused physical therapy center in the little known town of Guelph, just forty-five minutes outside Toronto. They incorporate a comprehensive stretching and strengthening program that treats the biomechanical issues of the neck, which are very often associated with concussions.
This program, which is called MyoWorx and is a part of MMTR Physiotherapy, is based on the simple idea that muscle tension in the neck and base of the skull can (1) restrict blood flow to the brain, contributing to cognitive symptoms, and (2) restrict nerves that run along the spine and into the brain, which generates pain, headaches and other neurological symptoms.
I liked the sound of this. I already knew my nerves were restricted and generating my pain, but my rehab plan didn’t seem to be targeting those muscles effectively enough to give me meaningful, long-term relief. I needed to do more, and this sounded like a place that could provide more.
Ryan, via Skype, taught me some of his neck stretches and once I learned a few, I decided to go to the gym and do them while sitting in the steam room. The heat from the steam room allowed my muscles to warm-up and made the stretching more effective. I started incorporating this into my routine, but unfortunately my muscles didn’t respond well to the stretching. After I stretched, I felt great for maybe 30 seconds before my muscles unforgivingly tensed up and caused me to feel even worse.
When I told Ryan about this, he informed me that Terry has a machine that helps prevent this rebound effect from happening. It’s a special type of stim machine that emits electrical currents at frequencies that loosens tight muscles, and helps them stay loose for longer periods of time.
It seemed like I needed something like that to help my muscles respond more effectively to the stretching. After an informative conversation with Terry Moore over the phone, I was completely sold and booked four appointments the week before Christmas.
I was headed to Canada, and soon it would become the new best decision I’ve ever made.