Back in the second semester of my freshman year of college (1998!), I went skiing with about 20 friends of mine in Bristol, New York. I was not the best skiier at the time, so me and my friend Ann went off on our own to take our time on the slopes, while our more accomplished skiier boyfriends taught our other friends how to ski.
In the early afternoon, Ann and I passed my boyfriend (not Nate!) with his group of students. We waved and went on. Suddenly I realized that Ann wasn't next to me anymore. She had stopped higher up on the mountain, because she heard my boyfriend yell for us to wait up. I hadn't heard him. I pulled off to the side of the mountain to wait for them.
The conditions had gotten very icy. My boyfriend had intended to ski quickly down the hill to catch up, and then spray me with a lot of snow as he stopped by my side. Like 20-year old showboat skiiers will do. Unfortunately he hit ice instead of fluffy snow. I didn't get a faceful of snow.
He ran into me going about 30 miles an hour. I was at a dead stop. Totally unprepared. I flew over the top of him and landed in a heap on the ground.
My only memory of that exact moment is the taste of metal in my mouth.
The doctors believe that I lost consciousness for a few moments. Somehow I skiied my way slowly down the mountain, and found the ski patrol. My boyfriend told them what happened (I am sure he felt so guilty). They didn't waste any time putting a brace around my neck, strapping me to a backboard, and transporting me to the local hospital. I proceeded to have a conversation with the EMT about my history as a lifeguard and my experience with these types of backboards. I think we had the same conversation 5 times on our way to the hospital. Each time it was the same conversation, and each time it was new to me.
At the hospital, I failed several neurologic tests. I vaguely remember an MRI or CT scan being done, and hearing voices while I lay still. The imaging showed no brain bleeding... just a severe sinus infection. They wouldn't let poor Ann back to see me because I was only allowed to have one "guest" and my boyfriend wouldn't leave my side.
I was kept for observation for several hours. I kept asking my boyfriend what had happened. He would (guiltily) repeat the story. Each time I would cry at exactly the same moment. I'd dry my tears, calm myself, and then 5 minutes later, would ask him what happened. From his recollection of the event, we had the same conversation 20 times over a couple of hours. I think he likely filled his guilt quota for his life, reliving that showboat moment over and over again.
They diagnosed me with short term memory loss (my long term memory was intact) and said that my amnesia would likely go away in a couple of days. Ultimately, I was released to Ann and my boyfriend, with explicit instructions that if I had any further neurologic symptoms, I should go back to the hospital closer to school. It was at that moment that I tried to call my parents to tell them what happened. I called my mom with no problem - she still had the phone number that I had at home since I was 2 years old.
Then we tried to call my dad. My parents had divorced by this time, and I couldn't remember my dad's phone number. I kept mixing it up with his work number, my mom's work number, my own dorm room number. After several frustrating attempts, we finally got ahold of him. I remember trying to tell him what happened. I remember him asking to talk to my boyfriend. I remember telling my dad not to be mad at my boyfriend. It occurred to me later that I probably wasn't making any sense, and my dad wanted to talk to someone who hadn't just been concussed.
After discharge, we were all starving and stopped at McDonald's before heading back to school. I decided that my body needed nothing more than a Quarter Pounder with cheese combo and a vanilla milkshake. I paid for my meal, they gave me my soda and my milkshake and told me that they would bring my food out to me in a few minutes. I sat down, happier than anything with my drinks. Ann, my boyfriend and some other friends joined me at my table, and asked me where my food was.
I couldn't remember. I started to cry. Where WAS my food? At that exact moment, the girl from behind the counter came up with my sandwich and fries. I am sure I was a sight. She gave me the food and apologized profusely.
Over the next couple of days, I couldn't keep anything in my head long enough to write it down. Classes were frustrating. I told my mom I wanted to drop out. She called the Dean of Students, who I sat down with on a couple of occasions. He convinced me to stay in school - that they would do anything they could to help me. My dad offered to come up to Rochester and stay with me to help out however he could.
Eventually, things went back to normal though my memories of the accident and the days that followed are just broken images and smells and tastes of things that happened. That boyfriend and I broke up (and no, not because he caused me such a scary injury!) And until today, that was the last time I had a head injury!
This morning I put Will on the bus like I typically do. I stood next to the emergency exit in the back of the bus, and kissed him goodbye as his chair was being tied down. But for some reason today, I stood too close to the door, stood up too fast, and hit the base of my skull on the door bar on top of the emergency exit. WHACK! It didn't hurt too badly at the time, but must have sounded bad because the bus aide asked me if I needed to sit down for a minute.
Over the course of the day, I got a headache. Then it started to get worse. Then my neck tightened up down through my back. And then I started to get a little shaky on my feet. My co-workers convinced me that I needed to get my head checked. One of them kindly drove me to see my doctor.
This was nothing like 1998, but it was still a little scary. Thankfully I passed all of my neurologic tests. But given that this was possibly my third concussion (my first was likely when I was in the 3rd grade and had a playground accident), they didn't want to take any chances. Off to CT I went. Thanks Vickie for being my chauffer!
Thankfully the CT showed no evidence of brain trauma. It did - ironically - again reveal that I have a sinus infection. Given all of this, my doctor said that I did not have a concussion, but had hit my head badly and needed to rest. So now I am home with a fistful of 800mg ibuprofen (this neck isn't going to feel good in the morning), alternating between a heating pad and Opa's intense ice water cold therapy system!
Hopefully I've reached my head injury quota for my 30s.