Bonk!

I wrote earlier about challenges of writing at night, and how the 9pm brain varied from the 6am brain. While that maxim holds true, I discovered an additional layer to this one over the course of this week.

I love playing hockey. From the time that I got posted to Edmonton, I have been lucky enough to have picked up the sport as an adult, to find acceptance from my teammates, and to be able, even if for just 90 minutes at a time, to focus on nothing else but trying to stay alive and in the moment.

On Monday night, during league play, in the last 5-10 minutes of the game, I was back in the faceoff circle, having a great time occasionally winning draws and garnering laughs from my opponent as we tried to outfox one another. On this particular play, he won (and rightly so), but in doing so, I ended up taking a blow to the head, and my neck twisted sharply to the left. I heard some crunching noises, and I will admit it didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from finishing my shift, or the game, and I thought nothing of it. It was a hard-fought game against our divisional rivals, and I played harder than I have in a while. When I got home, the usual muscle soreness had kicked in. A soak in the hot tub and a shower, and off to bed for me.

In the morning, I woke to neck soreness (not unexpected), so I decided to take myself to the clinic and get checked out. Besides, my back had been giving me grief from so much air travel over the last few months.

I walked in and had a chat with the Med Tech who was on duty that day, and the words out of my mouth were “I don’t think I have a concussion, I just wrenched my neck”. He went along with that, and I got a referral to physio. Doc commented that “age and responsibility are starting to catch up with [me]” and we left it at that.

I went to work, and proceeded to have a terrible couple of rehearsals, first with my own group, the other with the UVic group. Lots of confusion, stupid mistakes on my part. I was also very fatigued. This fatigue carried on through the next couple of days. Concurrent to this, food started tasting different (or not at all). By Thursday, I remarked to Kristy that the broccoli that we’d eaten didn’t really taste like broccoli – texturally, it felt like broccoli, but the flavour wasn’t there. I could taste certain things (soy, garlic) but not others (fresh, raw veggies). She said “hmm, sounds like you’re concussed.”

Come morning, I took myself back to the clinic, saw the same Med Tech and started explaining my symptoms. He did a check and the military concussion protocol, and his assessment off the top was that I was concussed. He needed to confer with the doc to see how we’d proceed. My usual doc wasn’t available, and so I got the tag-team of one of the other docs and her resident. He was very, very thorough, and I ended up going through a much more in-depth concussion protocol and discovered that my balance was off, and that my short-term memory was fried.

The recommendation was to send me to the hospital for a head CT. I was barred from driving, so I had my best friend come pick me up and cart me over to VGH, where I got poked, prodded, IV’d, and finally sent for a contrast CT. Thankfully, the CT scan came up mostly clean and I was sent home with instructions to go back to the doctor on Monday.

Things are definitely up-and-down for me right now. It feels largely like I’ve got a wet blanket over my brain, and certain activities are more difficult than others right now. I just rewired a telephone jack in my kitchen and it took way more brain power than it ought to have in order to just make the colours line up appropriately. Conversely, the music side of my brain doesn’t seem to be affected. I’ve still got my dexterity, I still can play. Today I’ll attempt some score studying and conducting practice and see how that translates between the visual and the physical.

Suffice to say, I’m off hockey for a while. Just at a time when my fitness was getting back to where I feel it belongs, that’s taking a sideline, too. Challenge for the next couple of weeks is going to be to heal, and to find ways to stay active while doing so.

If any of you, dear readers, have any advice on how to maintain fitness while dealing with a concussion, I’m all ears (even if they’re ringing). Leave a comment or track me down on social media.

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