Concussion puts making a difference on pause

Hi folks, it has been a longtime since I have posted a blog and been online due to a concussion I had on February 23, 2013. I would like to take the time to help people understand concussions better and they are not something to ignore!

As the typical Rane, who thinks she is a robot that is indestructible, I got up from the 2 foot diameter puddle of blood on my hardwood floor and begun to tell my husband everything is just fine at 2 in the morning, as he thought someone was breaking into our home and kicking down our back door from the loud boom of me hitting the floor.  He cleaned me up (thank you Greg) and as I ran to the toilet to hurl a few times, I tried to convince him I was fine and we should just go to bed.  After keeping me a wake for a long while and ensuring I was not going to go to sleep and never wake up.   (for those who do not know, if you go to sleep after a concussion you have a good chance of not waking up again, so don’t do it!) He finally let me go back to sleep and head to the emergency room in the morning.   In the morning, I was ready to ignore the hospital idea and  jump on another plane and fly off to go change the world and grow women computer scientists.  My husband forced me to slow down, head to the emergency room and ensure everything was okay before I take on my next activity.  There, I found out I needed 9 stitches and that I had a concussion and should stay home and not do anything for the next few days.   I did not realize the sensitivity of your brain and continued on as business as usual, ignoring the doctor.  DO NOT DO THIS FOLKS!!!  I ended up making myself worse and could have healed a lot faster if I would have listened to him in the first place.

 Women Hack to solve Human Trafficking issuesI raced to the airport and headed to our first ever International Women’s Hackathon being launched in 7 countries and 14 locations around the world.  (Thanks to my husband driving me, later I would find out that I would not be able to drive for five months due to my lack of balance, memory and vision.)   It was a fantastic hackathon with over 600 young women all over the world programming to make a difference in proactively helping victims of human trafficking.  I on the other hand was not doing well with blurred vision, massive migraine headache and coming close to blacking out a few times.  I continued to move forward and then head to the Michigan Women in Computing Conference where I was the keynote speaker.  When I got about half way across the United States, my brain felt like it was going to explode and about 100 knives were being stabbed in my head.  I arrived in not too good shape but was taken good care of by the Michigan State University Team (thanks Laurie Dillon).  I gave the keynote and then flew back to Bend, OR to go get a CT Scan and MRI.  I then found out I had post-concussive syndrome (PCS) and if you don’t listen to your body you can’t try to solve the world’s greatest problems in computing because you have to focus on your health.  I knew nothing about PCS.

Post-concussive syndrome (PCS) is a set of symptoms that continues for weeks, months or even a year or more post a concussion.  It is a mild form of traumatic brain injury resulting in migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating, chemical imbalances in the brain, vision challenges, emotional and behavioral issues.  There is no treatment for PCS symptoms can only be treated  by medications, physical, vision and behavioral therapy and time.  In my appointment with the doctor, I could not balance on one foot, I failed memory tests and I was in the most excruciating pain from a migraine headache.  I learned I would now need to stop working, no more television, no more smartphone, no more computer, no more reading, I couldn’t drive, no more wine, no more caffeine and that I MUST REST– no ands ifs or buts.  For the first week, I could do nothing but lay in bed and then the next five months would result in only walks with my dog, listening to books on CD and knitting.  I spent the next four months with a migraine headache 24 hours a day 7 days a week.   My vision tracking dropped to a level of an 8-year-old.   If I had listened to the doctor in the first place it could have resulted in only a few weeks of recovery instead of five months.  DO NOT IGNORE doctor’s advice when you have a concussion it is serious!

I then got to spent the next four months spending time with three different doctors to try and get back to normal.  Learn to mediate, relax and calm the mind- an impossible endeavor for a Type A person.  I was surprised to learn there is still so much we don’t know about concussions and a lot of it is still a guessing game.  It also made me realize how illogical we humans are when it comes to our brain.  When we break an arm and leg we know we must rest it, not use it and give it recovery time, but with our brains we don’t ever rest it.  When you hurt your brain it needs to rest.  Resting your brain means no visual stimulation, no mental stimulation, plenty of sleep and rest, meditation is critical and necessary to heal.  Learning to slow down was very difficult but critical for me to finally heal and be able to go back to work.  Once I could read again, a few interesting books and research I read that may be interest to you, to help you through the siiutation if you get a concussion:

So now that it is all said and done and I am back to work, what I am I doing to ensure I don’t re-injure myself or what have I learned from this experience that may help other TYPE As or folks who have a concussion?

  • When your body needs to rest, if you won’t rest, it will force you to rest.
  • Life is too short to ignore your health and if you’re not healthy you can’t solve all the world’s greatest problems.
  • Your brain needs the same respect, rest and support you give any body part you sprain or break.
  • You can’t ignore the importance of work-life balance.
  • Don’t put work, volunteerism before family because in the end all you have is your family! (Thank you Greg, Pam, Gordon, Anne and Claudia for helping me through the last 5 months!)
  • Your not as important as you think you are, the world will move on, work will get accomplished and people will get things to work even when you aren’t around.  (Thank you to my amazing co-workers who stepped up and took so much of my work on!)
  • What you think must get done yesterday, can wait till tomorrow, even a few months.
  • Sometimes working slow is much better than multi-tasking and working fast!  (READ THE SLOW FIX!)
  • Lastly, I have a three-legged stool.  One represents global impact, one represents local impact and the last my family and self.  They must be in balance or I will fall off the stool.  If projects, opportunities & relationships don’t keep the three legs in balance then I must learn to say NO when one leg begins to become too long.  You can’t have a leg too long or you will fall off your chair.  It’s okay to say no, sometimes it is even expected!

I am truly happy to be back and I hope you look forward to the many blogs to come this year as I continue my passion to grow more women in computing!  At the same time I hope this blog helps you to take time to stop and smell the roses and take care of yourselves as you go on and take on so many challenges in your lives.