I have a vestibular disorder. I have dealt with balance and dizziness issues for years. I have fallen many times. I listen to the news — I am interested in what happens when athletes suffer concussions. I know about these things. There are members of the organization I co-founded 15 years ago who deal with vestibular conditions because they’ve had concussions. You would think I’d know better….
I fell again recently. I went down like timber in the middle of the night and hit my forehead against a dresser with metal drawer pulls. Ouch! I was visiting friends. I didn’t want to disturb them so I said nothing — and did all the wrong things!
I dragged my aching body back into bed. The next morning, by pulling my hair down over it, I hid the large bump on my forehead which had blossomed into lovely shades of purple and blue. Clothing hid the bruises on my body and I claimed exhaustion and blamed the heat wave (it was 110 F. there) as an excuse to lay low. These are especially good friends and they let me call the shots. They spoil me and take care of all my needs/desires and I felt okay for the rest of my visit with them and noticed nothing.
After arriving back home, I felt unusually exhausted and unable to function. I’m organized — I made a list. It overwhelmed me — I’m not ordinarily easily overwhelmed. Friends called, but I was too weary to call them back (which was weird — I’m talkative) and sent out an email to a few at once saying I would call after I rested for a few days. A friend called back to ask if I had forgotten our book club meeting (at my place) the very next day. I had seen it on my calendar — it just hadn’t registered.
This friend knows about concussions. She recently had one herself. She suggested I see my doctor and I listened. My doctor confirmed that I did, indeed have a concussion and told me which steps to take, and especially to take it seriously.
“Muriel, I am interested in prevention,” she told me. “I want you to carefully think about it. Tell me exactly how it happened, why it happened, and what you can do to avoid it in the future.”
We discussed it together and I subsequently thought about it further after I got home and this is what I came up with.
#1 I was over-tired. I had risen at 4 a.m. the day before, then taken an all-day train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, arriving at about 9:00 p.m. Excited to see each other, my friends and I chatted awhile before I turned in. I awoke, as usual, sometime during the night to go to the bathroom, but was too tired to get up. If I ignore it, I hoped, perhaps I would fall back to sleep. It worked, but when I awoke the next time, it was a more urgent call for action. I moved too quickly.
#2 The bed I slept in is a sofa-bed. I’ve slept in it many times and it is lower than my own. Usually, I support myself with my hands when I get out of bed at home. I could not do that on the sofa bed. I needed to raise myself slowly and be sure of my footing before getting up. I was in a real hurry. I didn’t.
#3 The carpeting is plush and thick and soft — my own at home is not. I should have taken more time in turning towards where I was heading. I didn’t.
#4 In any case, I could have used my walking stick for support, no matter what. I didn’t. I jumped up, turned and keeled over.
“After the horse ran away, I locked the barn.” From that night on:
I did not put off the middle of the night trip to the washroom, so it would not feel so urgent.
I took my walking stick up to my bedroom each night and diligently used it for stability each time I got out of the low sofa bed and walked to the nearby washroom.
I turned slowly — as I should have in the first place.
It was too late to prevent the concussion this time, but I shall remember these steps in the future. And, I was extremely lucky. I’m okay now.