Traumatic brain injury. A week ago today I swerved my bike to avoid toppling over a car. The car’s driver swung out in front of me to get a parking space, it would seem. Only, she didn’t have enough room to pull all the way in. The butt of the car was sticking out. I swerved to avoid hitting the car. I used my hand to tap the back of the lady’s car. I tell myself I did this for several reasons: to let her know I was there or to balance myself. Both reasons are valid. The emotion behind those reasons was anger. What the driver did was dangerous and could have cost me my life, all for the sake of a small sliver of a parking space.
Putting my hand out destabilized me further. I ran into the trolley tracks, which kept my tires straight, while the momentum of my body was moving to the right. That caused my body to keep going while, just for an instant, the bike remained stationery. That was enough to send me careening over the handlebars and onto the street.
When Anger Takes Its Toll On Being Heard
No longer was I angry. I was embarrassed. I was in a crowded area with tons of students and I’d just bit the dust in front of all of them. Then I realized I couldn’t move. Eventually, with the help of others, I was able to get up and sit on the curb. One of the students got my bike out of the street. Meanwhile, the person who so desperately had to get that mini parking space had driven on. I was livid.
With the help of others I sat on a nearby bench, then passed out. A doctor was passing by, saw what happened and shook me to wake me up. I did. Things were fuzzy. I was able to call 911. A student got my phone for me and called my aunt and my mother. That way my entire family would know what happened. Just then the ambulance came up. The EMTs walked me to the ambulance. As I was getting in, I fainted. The large, female EMT grabbed the flesh between my breasts and twisted super hard while saying, “Wake up! Wake up, honey! Wake up!” I have never felt pain like that before but I did wake up.
The sheet in the ambulance had been cleaned, but not enough to get rid of a few stains that were still visible. Funny the things you notice even going in and out of consciousness. OCD dies hard, I suppose.
One of the students got into the ambulance and rode to the hospital with me. When we got there she stood outside to look for my family to let them know I was inside.
The ER at Penn Presbyterian Hospital was insanely crowded. Eventually my brother came. Then my aunt came. My best friend called. My mother called. After four hours, a CT scan and an elbow x-ray I had a diagnosis of a concussion and no broken bones. Treatment included over the counter painkillers, bedrest and absolutely no screens for two days. That last part nearly killed me. No screens! But I was able to do it.
Lessons Learned from a Traumatic Brain Injury
I’m getting better. Things are less cloudy but I am still quite fuzzy-headed sometimes. Here’s what I learned about traumatic brain injuries/concussions, treatment, and the kindness of others:
- Wear a helmet. I was beyond lucky to have been able to walk away from the accident of my own accord. I don’t even want to think about the possibilities. The bottom line is I could have been paralyzed. Imagine, one minute biking down the street to get to a café and the next minute unable to move any part of my body every again. I have yet to see a cool-looking helmet for any price that will compliment my hair. I do not care. I bought one the first day I was off of bed rest. I know I don’t look cool and I will continue to look like a complete dork by wearing a helmet whenever I get on a bike. That is all.
- Good people do exist. Two students, one nurse, and one doctor all stopped to make sure I got the care I needed before leaving the scene. One student went with me to the hospital. There is no way I can repay any of them. It boggles my mind. I would like to hope I would do the same for someone else. Now, I am looking for an opportunity to show the kind of compassion shown to me in my time of need. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. None of the people involved wanted their names mentioned, so I honor their wishes. I will repay them by being kind to someone else. They are all beautiful.
- Anger kills. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve worked hard to focus on controlling temper and anger issues. We all have our “something” and that’s mine. I look at this situation as a warning to be proactive in addressing the anger I sometimes feel. I’ve studied this a lot and it stems out of feeling unprotected, treated unfairly, and feeling as if no one is concerned or cares that an injustice was done to me. This is a sign that I must acknowledge injustices in my past, come to terms with them again, forgive those involved, and move on with my life in a healthy way emotionally. I have to “do the work” on the inside to avoid smacking the sides of cars, losing my balance, and keeling over on the side of the street. That, after all, is what anger gives birth to, an accident that could have ruined my entire life. Unfinished emotional business will make itself known one way or another.
As I discover and learn more, I’ll share it with you. Traumatic brain injuries are common. If you’ve experienced one recently, be gentle and patient with yourself. My next dispatch will be on the benefits of systems in coping with traumatic brain injuries and how to leverage them to be just as productive with half the screen time. Screen time seems to be a big deal when it comes to healing from these injuries. It’s ironic because using screens is how I make my living. Time to adjust, shift, and become even better than ever!