I remember the morning well. I was exhausted from an impromptu trip to Connecticut for a funeral, but made myself get out of bed anyway. Our league was trying out Saturday morning practice. I was one of the people who said it was a great idea, so I had to attend. Over the years, I have found that regardless of how tired or irritable or crappy I feel, putting on skates and hitting women in a competitive setting puts a smile on my face.
It was going to be more than a painful endurance practice, too. The local men’s league was showing up to scrimmage. Fun was to be had by all. Leading the scrimmage as one of the new team captains shined brightly in my mind. My usual roll of positive attitude, fearless determination, and stubbornness had recently been formalized by election and I was feeling the weight of my responsibility.
How is it that I was skating along one minute, having fun, and the next minute my life changed forever? It still makes no sense to me. I had recently started jamming for my team. Turning over a new leaf after five years of blocking. I was not particularly good at quick movement, but my brick wall physique helped get me through a lot of difficult situations. I remember that last jam, struggling through the pack and breaking free. Yay! One blocker left. Going around a corner. Realizing he would hit me before I could avoid him. Deciding to hit him back. Contact. Falling backwards, my feet leaving the ground. Landing on my right shoulder. The bam of the back of my (helmeted) head hitting concrete. Bursting into uncontrollable tears. Feeling how strange that was because the impact did not even hurt. Being assessed. Bursting into uncontrollable laughter. Friends taking off my skates. Standing up, feeling dizzy. Realizing by how slightly “off” the world felt that I was done for the day. Dammit. A little later, a suggestion to go to urgent care. Yes, probably a good idea. Calling Mary to tell her I had been hurt. A teammate driving me to the hospital down the street.
A quick assessment at urgent care. No, I did not see stars. No, I did not lose consciousness. Yes, I do remember what happened. A look at my eyes, a check of my blood pressure and pulse, and the triage assessment was done. Go sit in the waiting room. And sit. And sit. An annoying fox news show was on the television. None of the magazines seemed interesting. What a pain in the ass. I wanted to be on skates having fun.
By the time Mary arrived 30 minutes later, my brain had started to swell. I know this because word retrieval became iffy. I watched with detached amusement as I forgot the word “chair”. My mind helpfully substituted the word “spoon”. In my defense, the chairs were of a scooped out variety that did somewhat mimic the shape of the head of a spoon. I laughed as I talked to Mary about the spoons in the waiting room. She started looking more concerned.
After about three hours, I was seen by a doctor. Yup, you have a concussion. Generally the symptoms last about two weeks. Take it easy. Avoid using electronic devices for the next few days. Do not take ibuprofen as it can increase the bleeding in the brain. Check in with your PCP in a few days. Go home, get better, it will be fine. No brain scan. No MRI. No testing.
After that, the day became less clear. I think I rested, slept. Mary parked me on the couch so she could keep an eye on me while she took care of her own work around the house. This was the first day of the 365 days and counting that I have been altered, limited, frustrated, hurt by this simple bonk on the head.
The cost of this injury over the past year?
- $23,793 in lost wages
- $8,400 not set aside for retirement
- 87 doctor or medical appointments, most with copays or paid completely out of pocket
- Immeasurable stress for Mary, for me, for our relationship
- Stating I am disabled, in writing, to my work
- Horrible loneliness, frustration, anger, denial, sadness
- My life, my goals, my dreams jerked to a sudden halt, perhaps permanently
- Physical pain and limitations that I experience to this day
All from a bonk on the head. Fuck you, Universe.
What does the next year hold? Mary and I have been talking about that over the last several days. I am just starting to be able to talk about the future. Denial is one of my best and most familiar coping strategies.
Important questions linger:
- Will I ever be able to work full time again?
- How will we pay the bills if I can not?
- How many of my limitations are here to stay?
- Will I ever be able to play roller derby?
- Will my near-genius intellect ever return?
- Will I ever be whole and healthy again?
I do not know the answers to any of these yet. I am striving to cultivate the “don’t know” mind and be okay with not being able to predict the future. Mary and I are making plans based on what I can do right now. On the plus side, right now sucks a lot less than it did six months ago! Look at me, I can write! Look at me, I can travel for a few days with only moderate accommodations for my injury! Look at me, I sometimes feel happy!
The human brain, and the human spirit, are made for adaption. It is part of our DNA, and part of what makes us successful as a species. I have tried to adapt to make my life less physically painful. I have mostly denied over the past year that my life has truly and irrevocably changed. I finally have the intellectual capacity, and the emotional capacity, to start poking at myself to acknowledge the truth, to see what now IS versus what I want now to be.
Goddess, I hope this coming year is better than the past year. Please help me and watch over me through this scary scary change. Blessed be.