Concussion is Not Just in Your Head
Honestly, as I have indicated in past notes, I come from a healthy family and many of the ShareWIK health-related topics are out of my experience bubble. But this one…well, since Oct 1, 2012, I have become intimately familiar with this one.
One split second, a rainy road, a line of stopped cars, a distracted driver and lives have been horribly changed. Steven, my older son, just turned 40 but his ADHD keeps his attitude, sense of humor and general outlook on life at around 25. He is a gifted mechanic, welder, landscaper, irrigation specialist, hunter, and the list goes on. He is tall, strong and a hard worker.
Aside from his insatiable need for sleep and his inverse reactions to drugs, he has enjoyed a boring heath history. He has never been injured, hospitalized or seriously ill. After having his Dodge Ram truck rear-ended by a woman who saw the green light but didn’t see the line of cars stopped just ahead for a left hand turn, he is a very different man. Joe and I were both on our way home, traveling the same road. When he called us to say he had been hit and needed us to go pick up his son, we headed straight to the accident and arrived on the scene within minutes.
Steven emerged from the truck shaken but standing and unmarked. His massive truck bed was completely buckled and all the contents in his truck, including items attached to his body had been violently thrown to the front of the cab. He allowed his dad to take him to the hospital after we did the police thing and got the truck towed, but insisted he was fine. The doctors said he would be sore and might have a concussion. They encouraged us to make an appointment with a specialist.
On day two, he was in excruciating pain which, essentially, has not abated since. He has had four solid months of dizziness, headaches, pain and weakness. Right now he cannot hold on to a cup or glass without dropping it. He has had MRI’s, shots, physical therapy, and has a pile of medical CDs that show the affected vertebrae and tissue swelling. The diagnosis is concussive whip lash.
Every week we expected his symptoms to subside. Then we heard that concussions can play havoc with one’s life for six months or more. In two weeks he is scheduled for surgery, which will remove the two damaged discs, and replace them with a bag of bone chips which, we are told, will grow into healthy neck bones…hmmmm…from their mouths to God’s ears!
First, this is a young man who lives to work. Sitting around at home has been hell. Although he never “gets enough sleep” he is sick and tired of days of sleeping out of boredom or a medicated state. His strong and heavy two-year-old son can not understand why daddy can’t pick him up, wrestle, bathe him or participate in the hundreds of other things they did every day.
Since his wife, Stacy, works full time and arrives home after our grandson’s bedtime, Joe and I spend every afternoon picking up the slack (and the grandson!). At first Logan complained (Daddy do! Daddy do!) but he soon understood that Daddy’s booboo was the root of all disappointments.
Joe and I love to spend time with him and we are grateful that we are close enough to help in this situation, but we regret that Steven is out of commission for such an extended time. With his ADHD, I worry about depression. I know his thought processes, goofy at best, before the accident, are seriously impaired.
Most young adults have not signed up for short-term disability, especially healthy adults with no family history that bodes disaster. This experience has been very frustrating. I try not to think of the consequences if Steven cannot recover from this injury. At first we reminded ourselves of the positives. 1) Logan was not in the car. Surely his injuries would have been devastating. 2) Steven survived. 3) No other victims were seriously hurt 4) Tt occurred during the winter months when his job as a maintenance and landscaping employee would not be seriously impacted.
Now, however, I am over the rationalizations and onto the anger phase. A young father has been senselessly rendered debilitated, his family life disrupted, his finances thrown into disarray, his future an unknown. He is an excellent driver. I cannot remember his last ticket. His last accident was prom night during his senior year of high school. He was simply sitting in his truck on his way to pick up his son from day care waiting for the third car ahead of him to turn into the grocery store parking lot.
Now let’s talk about justice. The woman who hit him was clearly distracted. She told the police that a bird flew in front of her and her attention was diverted. I see very few birds flying in a rain storm. We never saw her or spoke with her.
Instead of getting out of her car to check on the victims she had hit or the cars she had demolished, she moved from the front seat to her back seat and stayed on her phone the entire time….a clue, perhaps to the cause? We asked the police to check her phone records but they did not. She was charged with following too closely (she was not in sight when Steven stopped) and paid a $200 fine. Although she was driving a new Four Runner, her insurance coverage met the “minimum“ level so she is unable to assist with the car, medical or loss of income bills. I am not usually a mean-spirited woman, but in this case, there are not enough Arabic curses to bring justice.
Concussions? I may not know much about them medically, but I surely know the impact they can have on an entire family.
Jacque Digieso has been an educator for over 40 years. She and her husband Joe co-founded The Cottage School in Roswell, GA, to educate adolescents with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and other special educational needs. The school currently serves close to 150 middle and high school students. Jacque and her husband have two sons, one of whom is adopted, and a handful of grandchildren.
Read more columns by Jacque Digieso here.
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