The first time I got hit was November 15, 2008, at basketball practice. I dove, a girl moved her knee and I smashed into it with my forehead. I was dizzy, confused, nauseated and my head was pounding.
Three weeks later, I was shooting around with a friend when a basketball hit me on the head. Since I was not symptom-free from my first concussion, my symptoms only became worse. This is called second impact syndrome.
My first concussion was right before finals. I tried my best, but my grades slipped. I had problems with short-term memory, fatigue and concentration. Months passed and my pediatric neurologist (not at OHSU) prescribed bed rest and medication that caused awful side effects. Their approach was "time and rest."
I had many different symptoms — lights and noise bothered me, and my eyes hurt whenever I used the computer or watched TV. I had a constant migraine, which caused me to wake up 10-12 times a night in pain. Nothing helped.
I went without any improvements for over a year. I often felt as if no one, not even the doctors, believed me when I described my problems. It became apparent during the few speech and physical therapy sessions I received that their philosophy was to teach me how to deal with my symptoms, not expect any improvements. A physical therapist told my mom to grieve for the person I had been, because I would never get back to that.
In January of 2010, we switched our insurance plan and were able to go to Dr. James Chesnutt and the concussion rehab team at OHSU. For the first time we felt there was hope. Dr. Chesnutt had me evaluated by a speech therapist and a physical therapist. I was also diagnosed with severe whiplash from my initial injury. This had never been diagnosed or treated, and I had to see a neck therapist who specialized in strengthening my neck. I went through six months of intense physical therapy as well as 11 months of speech therapy. The speech therapist gave me tools to help my memory, concentration and to increase my speed of processing. Dr. Chesnutt also referred me to an ophthalmologist who discovered previously hidden vision problems. Six weeks of vision therapy got my eyes working together, which further decreased my headache pain.
My OHSU therapists not only believed me – they believed in me. They went the extra mile to make sure I was at my best. Dr. Chesnutt wants to make sure I'm doing better in every area of my life. Instead of hoping I would get better he actually made it happen. I missed one year of school altogether, and I couldn't play sports for two years. Dr. Chesnutt's first priority was my safety; even though time was passing, he was patient and made sure I didn't rush back too soon. At the same time, he helped lead me back to a regular life again.
Now I'm back to my "normal" life, back in school full-time, and playing on the Aloha High School Varsity basketball team. I am senior vice president of my class for the 2011-2012 school year, and I am catching up with my credits to graduate with my class of 2012.
Concussions change you emotionally, physically and mentally. In the two years of having this concussion I lost a lot, but I have gained even more. As strange as it sounds, I'm actually thankful this happened. The injuries helped shape me into a better person and have opened up many opportunities. And the best part? I got to meet all these amazing people at OHSU.