I have noticed a lot of sports magazines talking about the toll that concussions take on retired football players. Too many years of trying to shake off hard hits and keep playing has left many of these athletes with impaired memory and other neurological problems. I find these articles interesting because I had a bad concussion in 2008 after being hit by a drunk driver. I don't know the severity level of my concussion, but I'm guessing it was pretty bad. I still don't remember the first 7 hours of the day of the accident. I woke up in the hospital knowing I had been in a car accident, but I had no idea what had happened or how badly my car was damaged. I don't know if I lost consioussness. I don't know how I got myself out of the car. I don't remember speaking to the police officers or EMS. I don't remember calling my wife and my employer 3 times telling the them the same thing each time I called them. I don't remember being in the ambulance, getting a CT scan, or talking with any doctors.
My first clear memory of that day was waking up in the emergency room with an IV in my hand. I remember talking with a nurse who told me I had been rear ended on the interstate by a drunk driver. Miraculously, I had no other injuries other than the concussion. I didn't even have a sore neck. As a side note, you are far less likely to receive whiplash in a high speed accident than in a low speed one which explains my lack of neck pain. I felt ok while I was in the hospital and since I was getting back to normal, they didn't even have to keep me overnight for observation. My wife picked me up from the hospital, took me to Applebee's for dinner and (don't laugh) bought me a Lego set. I was back at work a few days later.
All did not return to normal immediately though. Even though I wasn't suffering from any great physical discomfort, I didn't feel right. My short term memory was bad for a few months after the accident. My job included order pulling and I would forget quantities and item numbers as I was pulling merchandise. I had a hard time remembering appointments. I had a hard time concentrating. Writing code for my websites felt much harder than usual. I also struggled to stay focused long enough to read magazine articles. I became moody and would pick on my wife for minor things. I also had a hard time getting motivated to do things. Unfortunately for me, scans, psychological tests, and exams didn't reveal any physical causes for my problems. It was frustrating and I had lingering effects from the concussion for probably a year and half afterwards. It affected my relationship, my job performance, and my ability to learn new things for awhile.
After doing some research on brain injury recovery, I did alot of things wrong. I returned to work way too soon. I probably should have taken a couple of weeks off from work instead of just the 3 days I had. I should have had much less mental stimluation for awhile after the accident. I spend alot of time on the computer becuase we don't have TV. It's my inlet/outlet for the world, but it was too much stimulation. My job didn't allow me to have normal sleeping hours either. My shift started at 4:00 am and I would often get by on just 5 hours of sleep. Sometimes less. My job was also physically active and stressful. Looking back, I'm not surprised I felt so bad for as long as I did after my concussion.
The good news is, I think I have made a full recovery. I don't get depressed like I did during the year and a half after my concussion. I am writing code and learning more easily again. My memory has improved also. If you have just suffered a head injury, make sure you are able to get enough rest afterwards. Trying to get back to normal too soon will just prolong your recovery process. If you have the luxury of taking a 2 or 3 weeks off and keeping things calm and serene during that time, do it. You will get back to normal sooner that way.