What does one do when his/her way of daily living is significantly disrupted by a single blow to the head? How does the individual navigate through a world where s/he feels no sense of belonging? In this anthology, Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline, 19 individuals share what they experienced. They talk of the journey through the mild brain injury maze from the concussion incident to the ongoing process of recovery. These are often hard stories to hear, but they are heartfelt, real and so very important.
These stories are all real-life experiences. Each story shows the reader how vulnerable anyone is to sustaining a concussion and having to deal with mild brain injury. You do not have to be a pro-athlete to have your brain rattled. A concussion incident can happen in a heartbeat -- anywhere, anytime, to anyone. When it does occur, the potential exists for the incident to become one of the most debilitating events a person experiences. How the individual copes and manages the process of recovery is critical. Too often, the person having to deal with the maze is left feeling isolated, alone. The family member or friend feels overwhelmed, often helpless, while watching the survivor work out activities of daily living.
Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline shares how 19 individuals have navigated one of the most difficult times in their lives. It documents how deeply family and friends were affected. The book provides each author a forum to be heard, to help and assist others, to create and foster connections, and cultivate feelings of camaraderie. Most of all it gives hope in a situation that too often feels hopeless and terrifyingly isolating.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Vera Kinach
Introduction by Bonnie Nish
Second Hand Concussion, Ali Denno
Give Pain a Voice, Luanne Armstrong
Riptide, Barbara Stahura, CJF
David’s Story, Dawn Metcaffe
My Last Game of Hockey, Alastair Larwill
Our Lady of Perpetual Surprise (Reflections of a Recovered Concussive), Meg Stainsby
Long Day’s Journey into…The story of Ashley as told to her friend, Karen Kristjanson
A Raspberry Torte, Myna Wallin
Living the Dream, Heather Williams
Orchid (December 29, 2013), Kyle McKillop
The Grand-Mal Life, Julie Reaper with Kim Seary
Picture Julie Reapers Butterfly
I Do…A story by Kim for Julie at Christmas, December of 2009, Kim Seary
Taxi Cabs and Snow Globes, Kim Fink-Jenson
Not Just a Headline, Jenny Callaghan
Ceiling Fan, Concussion (recorded in bed on December 4, 2013, 13 days after a mild head injury), Kyle McKillop
Strange Ghost in a Faulty Machine by Susan Cormier
The Break, Jude Neale
Image Concussion, Candice James
Jeff Corness As told to Nicole Nozick
The "Y" In Concussion You Don’t See, Bonnie Nish
The Inner Workings of an Injured Brain Trying to Find the Way Home, Bonnie Nish
Image Life Loops Close Up, Teresa McGill
Maybe my need to collect other people’s stories was simply a desire to try to understand my own situation. To feel not so alone in what had become a life I had not chosen but that had been suddenly thrust upon me. Maybe it was a clear sightedness on my part in a moment of awareness that this was actually bigger than me and that it was something that needed to be addressed publicly. An unseen wound needing to be exposed and aired. Or maybe it was just one of “those impulses” brought on by a severe bong to the head.
A few months later, I started to have the idea of compiling people’s stories into a book. It started as a thought, something that seemed to help but that originally I wasn’t sure I would pursue. I had my own life to get back to after all, my own book of poetry to finish editing, my job, my PhD coursework to complete, my therapy practice to try to open. Then came a second hit to the head and what seemed just an impulse or a desire to understand what was happening to me and to stop feeling so alone, suddenly became a necessity.
It became a driving force, not only for my own healing, but for those countless others who were experiencing everything I was going through or more…
We all need to know what happens when someone has a traumatic brain injury. Why? Because it can happen in a flash to someone we love. They may be walking down the street or they may be standing perfectly still and something hits them in the head causing the brain to shake, rattle and roll into this new existence. It could happen to you when one moment you are running to catch the bus to work in your crazy busy schedule and the next you are lying in a dark room totally unable to function in any way that seems to resemble anything you have ever known.
This book has been a wake up call for me in some ways. It is something more than I ever imagined. As I listened and read people’s stories I could see how individual they were, but I could also see the consistencies in their stories. In the symptoms they spoke of that lingered years later. I was told I would heal at the end of the weekend after I was first hit. When I didn’t, I was told it would likely take me three to six months to heal. When this didn’t happen, no one seemed to be able to say how long. When I was hit in the head a second time all my symptoms that were beginning to heal came back. Almost two years after the initial injury I no longer know when some of my symptoms will disappear. I do know that I am a different person than I was before the injury. Not too many other people see it. It is funny when it is something like your brain. It is the part of your body that most defines who you are. We don’t usually think of this. We just exist.
Today I can tell you as I write this and I get tired, it took all I could do to read all the submissions. Not because they were bad or good, they all had something to offer. Some just weren’t the right fit. I struggled on some days to keep them with me, to remember their details. To know I had even read them. On others they were there like an old friend, so welcome. They were all important. They all affected me in some way. They were all read numerous times and considered. They all had something of significance to say.
I am not so alone after reading them all. I am in not such a hurry to reclaim my life after sitting with these brain stories. I can go a step at a time now to what lies ahead and discover a new me. I too grieved for what I had lost, big time. But sitting in with others’ stories makes me realize how important community and connection are. I have always believed it. This book makes me live it to the fullest. While it isn’t a community I wanted to be a part of or create, it is something that is necessary, even if we only touch one another for a brief moment. It is a way of understanding what not many others get. Our coming together and understanding is a way of helping others to cope, see and be with those who are suffering from mild brain injury or concussion.
I hope this book touches, aides, moves you. I am grateful for the time I have spent here with these stories. I am a different person because of them.
Working with the other editors on this was real a joy. I thank them for their input, patience and friendship.
Many weeks after my own head injury I wrote, “A paragraph on a page—two hours of effort. Letters on paper—viscous, dissolving. Every second day—an anvil of despair.” If only I’d had this book then to give me a perspective I could not find for myself, despite the support of my family. Bonnie Nish writes, “My words become dead men”: it is phenomenally strange to need to use the damaged equipment of the brain to try to comprehend what has happened to it. This brave collection offers thoughtful and hard fought for accounts of the changed lives and changed relationships that may follow concussion and mild brain injury. I loved the range of voices—some literary and brilliant, some devastatingly raw. In all, Not Just Another Headline has found the chemistry to create an unexpected gift of community.
Reviewed by Marilyn Bowering, Poet and Novelist
The personal accounts collected by Bonnie Nish in Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline clearly dispel the common public assumption that concussion is not a serious condition. As several authors describe how clinicians either missed or made late diagnoses, significantly delaying treatment and complicating their recovery, readers will appreciate the importance of changing this perception that concussion is “no big deal”. This book provides insights into the complexity of post-concussion syndrome and the myriad of possible physical, cognitive, behavioral and social consequences. As authors trace the early impact of their injuries and their struggle to regain their abilities and sense of self, their expectations and assumptions about “recovery” and “adjustment” shift as they negotiate needed accommodations and supports. This book makes an important contribution to raising public awareness, providing support, and educating readers about the complexity of concussion and its consequences.
Reviewed by Marilyn Lash