Written by Muriel Kauffmann, Co-Founder and Past-President of the Canadian Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society
I have a vestibular condition. I have dealt with balance issues and dizziness 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. 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 head 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, then next morning, hid the large bump on my forehead, which had blossomed into lovely shades of purple and blue, by pulling my hair down over it. Clothing hid the bruises on my body. I claimed exhaustion and blamed the heat wave (it was 110 F. there) as an excuse to lay low, and no one seemed the wiser.
After arriving back home, I was 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) 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. My doctor confirmed that I did, indeed have a concussion and told me which steps to take, and especially to take it seriously.
“I am interested in prevention,” she told me. “Think about it. Tell me exactly how it happened, why it happened, and how it can be avoided in the future.”
We discussed it together and I thought about it further when I got home and this is what I came up with:
- 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 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 asleep. I did, but when I awoke, it was a more urgent call for action.
- The bed I slept in was a sofa-bed. It is lower than mine. 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 rise slowly and be sure of my footing before getting up. I was in a hurry and didn’t. Also, the carpeting is plush and thick and soft — mine is more solid.
- In any case, I should not ever turn quickly. I jumped up, turned and keeled over.
From that night on:
- I did not put off the trip to the washroom, so it would not be so desperate and hurried.
- 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.
- I turned slowly every time — 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. I was lucky. I’m okay now.