In the wake of the chilling sight of Ben Smith once more leaving the field following the effects of concussion, Camille Guzzwell opens up on what she has been dealing with in 2017.
March 16th 2017
It all happened back at the end of January – a seemingly innocuous collision with another player on the football field. Turns out that “innocuous” collision gave me a concussion, with a side order of neck and thoracic strain. And here I am, two months later, still recovering.
When people talk about concussion in the news you always think “she’ll be right in a couple of weeks” – what the news never tells you is that the medical profession do not actually know how long it’s going to be until you start to feel better again. There’s no pill they can give you to sort your scrambled brain out – it just involves a lot of rest, a lot of management and A LOT of extreme mental fatigue. In simple terms, if you’re not careful and overuse your brain it is the equivalent of sprinting a marathon on a broken leg. If you do it’s going to take that much longer for the leg to heal. In order to get over the finish line you have to stay of that leg. So for the last two months I have kinda had to stay off my brain.
My entire brain and body went into slow mo for the first few weeks – I could not get over how extremely tired I was – this was worse than having a newborn baby and a toddler to run around after – I could barely get up each day. There is something quite terrifying about hearing yourself slur words, completely forget entire conversations, and as for jokes – they went over the top of my poor muddled brain. The headaches were constant and I learnt to differentiate between 3 different kinds – I named them the tendrils, the bangers and the throbbers – in order to describe them to my many different doctors. Along with the headaches, average memory, plus the light and noise sensitivity my poor family also had to contend with erratic mood swings. I would have overwhelming random bouts of intense anger and frustration or sudden tears that I could not control and they could come from the smallest things. Both children missed out on their birthday celebrations because Mummy couldn’t cope and my 18th wedding anniversary was celebrated with a random attack of tears over one phone call. Nobody tells you that emotional instability is a very common symptom of concussion – yes even those tough rugby players in the news also suffer from this!
I’ve learnt a lot of the past few weeks – about my brain, my body and I’ve been forced to learn to slow down to appreciate life properly. I’ve learnt about the autonomic system, the vestibular system, all about the different lobes of my brain and that patience is key to my recovery. I’ve had to stop multitasking and concentrate on one task at a time – this is harder than it sounds – the amount of food I’ve burnt and flat car batteries proves that! Who would’ve thought that watching TV, texting and talking with friends or driving your car was too cognitively stimulating for someone with concussion? I’ve been unable to do a job that I love with a passion but I’m very thankful for the support of ACC, my workmates and managers. I’ve learnt that social media and my cell phone are not essential parts of my daily life and neither is alcohol nor TV. Having a mild brain injury has been far more debilitating that I ever imagined but I would not be here smiling today without the love of my strong husband and very understanding family. My brain is a wonderful instrument and everyday I am one step closer to a full return to 100% normality and I am incredibly grateful for that.
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Tomorrow: an update from last week.