Concussion (by )

For all of the time I've known her, Sarah has been poorly. When we first met, she was being investigated for a bowel problem, and she also suffered shoulder pain from a bike accident when she was a teenager. When she was pregnant with our first child, she had an exciting array of complications, and took many years to recover from the experience; she had mobility issues and pain due to a separated pelvis, lacked energy, had reduced sensation in her legs, and so on. The second pregnancy was nowhere near as bad, but Sarah still bled for months afterwards due to problems with her womb lining.

However, some months ago, while trying to lose weight, she cut wheat from her diet; and a load of niggling health problems she had reduced significantly, while her energy levels rose. She suddenly found it easier to lose weight, and things were looking pretty rosy.

However, this meant that she wasn't certain of her limits any more. Last Sunday, she was dancing, and found that she could now dance hard, and didn't need to keep stopping and resting; until she was suddenly dizzy, and stumbled backwards off of the nice soft grass and onto a concrete path, where she fell over backwards and hit her head hard on the ground.

I didn't see it happen; I was looking the other way, but Jean called out to me, and I saw Sarah lying on her back. She was instantly surrounded by people, and a paramedic was at hand almost immediately, so other than providing my cloak as a blanket, my role was reduced to holding her hand and helping Jean to pack up our things so we could leave.

This led to a thrilling trip in an ambulance with her neck immobilised, and several hours in A&E being examined and X-rayed.

Sarah with concussion, and her neck immobilised

Thankfully, this revealed that she had no structural damage to her spine or skull, so she could be released from the collar and head restraints, and sent home.

Jean was a star throughout; she rode in the ambulance, with Sarah's glasses and phone and medication, while I followed in the car, and helped the ambulance staff by verifying the truth of questions they asked Sarah to check her memory function. She didn't panic, even though it was clearly stressful for her, and did all the right things.

On Monday, Sarah mainly slept. On Tuesday, my father and stepmother visited, and we had a day out; Sarah was still speaking slowly and having short-term memory problems (forgetting where she put things, mainly). But on Wednesday she was struggling, with her speech slurring and often struggling to remember words for things, so she spoke haltingly. So we took her back to A&E, where she was given a CT scan, which thankfully confirmed that she didn't have any bleeding inside her skull (which would have been bad news). So she was let out again, and told to come back if she wasn't better in another week and a half.

At the time of writing, a week after the accident, she still has difficulty concentrating for long conversations, and can't concentrate on reading or watching TV or anything like that for more than a few minutes at a time. If she tries, she starts to struggle to think clearly at all, and her speech worsens. I've not kept track, but she sleeps through the night and probably spends at least a quarter of the day napping, and has to restrict her waking hours to mentally non-taxing tasks. Loud noises cause her pain, and I've been having to work from home to keep an eye on her and to keep Mary from bothering her.

So, it looks like she has Post-concussion Syndrome; this means she may be better in a few weeks - or may well be like this for years. Apparently about one in ten people still have symptoms after a year.

Her personality is intact, and her memories all seem to still exist; she just has to take her time to find them, which makes conversation difficult at times. But she can't do any of the things she loves to do, because sustained concentration renders her zombie-like within minutes. Unless that clears up, her career in writing, crafts workshops, and science communication will be over. I feel reasonably confident I can leave her looking after herself at home now, but she won't cope on days when Mary is not at nursery, so if things don't improve my job may become awkward until Mary starts at school in September, too.

So, for the time being, all we can do is hope it gets better!


  • By alaric, Mon 8th Jun 2015 @ 7:46 pm

    People have been asking how I'm feeling/coping, and the answer really is that right now I'm just focussing on things a day at a time - the practicalities of making sure the kids are all looked after and doing the domestic stuff and all that. I can't really let myself worry about the longer-term future until we know if this is going to get better or not, and in the meantime, it seems there's nothing I can do to improve Sarah's chances. All we can do is wait, and try to tide things over in the meantime.

  • By @ndy, Sat 13th Jun 2015 @ 4:04 pm

    I hope you get better soon Sarah. Our thoughts are with you. x

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