How did I get a concussion?

It all started when my youngest daughter put a doll’s tent stick through her mouth. I didn’t sleep for two nights. Feeling exhausted and a tad stressed, I was rushing around to get some jobs completed. I ran into Pippa’s new treehouse (when I tell this to my British friends I have to call it a Wendy house)  to show my dad where he needed to hang some new hooks we had just purchased her. I was showing where I wanted them and I stood up quickly. I did not realize there was a large beam above my head and I smacked it with great force. Seeing stars I exited the treehouse and  started using inappropriate language.   My priest asked me what I did wrong, and I just said I was a moron and hit my head. I went inside the house and noticed I had a little bit of blood on the top of my head.   I thought the story ended there.

I went about my evening and the next day with a terrible headache, but thinking that was all.   On Saturday, two days later, I could barely keep my eyes open. Words were becoming difficult to say and I felt like I was completely underwater. My priest does not deal with stress well. He was incredibly anxious that there was something very wrong with me.   He forced me to go to the hospital. Again, I was deeply impressed with the service at the hospital (read Pippa’s hospital story first).  I was given my priority wristband and I waited to be called. The doctor who saw me,  at first was unimpressed that I did not speak Portuguese, I told her I was lucky to speak English at that point. She ordered a CT scan of my brain and an x-ray of my neck. Both of those scans came back clean. Some of you may be surprised to know that I actually have a brain and it appears to be in good working order, at least my brother was surprised about that.

The doctor just said that I had a concussion. She did not tell me what to expect, what I needed to do, how long it would take to get better.    My priest asked her some questions and she said “yes, she has a concussion.”   Not really knowing what this was going to mean, we just went home. Over the next few days things got worse. I became more tired sleeping, up to 18 hours a day. I didn’t feel like eating.  Light was bothering me. I could not go on any computer screens. I couldn’t answer questions.   Everything in my daily life became too much work. I spent most of my time in my dark bedroom. I will say at this point that I am entirely grateful for our European shutters. They let in absolutely no light.   I wonder now how I ever lived without shutters before.

During this time, my priest was spiraling out of control. In our 18 years of marriage, I pretty much handle our day to day life.  I cook, do the laundry, clean the house, do the grocery shopping, you get the idea.   That is not to say that he would not like to be helpful, he just needs real direction.  Like the kind of direction that makes me rather do the job myself.    I love my priest with all of my heart,  he is just a little bit pathetic when it comes to me not feeling well. He started eating massive amounts of chocolate. In fact he began eating everything in his sight. He would come beside my bed and start crying,  begging to know when I would be better.  A question I cannot answer.  I usually just plow through every illness.  Like a lot of moms, not having the time or luxury of a long recovery.  This is different.  My priest is not used to me being sick.  Not used to me taking the time to rest.  Now, I have no choice, which is leaving us all more than a little scared.

So after no improvement, my priest insisted I go to our family doctor.  He did an exam and said that it will be a long and slow recovery.  My priest was not very happy.  He took me to a healing service at church.  He asked for prayers.  He cried…a lot.  Still no improvement.  He took me back to our family doctor.  Our doctor was not impressed that I was not getting better either and made an appointment for me to see a neurologist.  My priest wants me to wear a helmet.  Permanently.

Finally, on Friday I couldn’t feel my hands.   I woke up from a long nap with the tingly sensation in my arms and hands. The kind when your hand falls asleep, you know the feeling?     The problem was the feeling wasn’t going away and I couldn’t properly use my hands. I started thinking something major was going wrong. When I told my priest that I needed to get to a hospital immediately, all hell broke loose.   Maggie started crying instantly and Pippa wanted food…she always wants food.   I thought I might’ve been having a stroke because the loss of sensation was stronger on one side.  I know that with strokes minutes count and I wasn’t messing around.   We arrived at the hospital at 4 PM.  I was seen immediately by triage and given yet another high-priority bracelet.

The doctor we met with first, accosted me for not speaking Portuguese. This was a different doctor from the first time… she was even nastier.   Not the kind of nasty woman I like.   She said that if she went to my country she would speak my language. When she asked what was wrong and I gave her a description, I also included that I felt like most of my symptoms were typical of a concussion.   She proceeded to ask me if I was a medical doctor. At that point I wanted to punch her in the face.   My priest started talking for me.  He was flustered but he wasn’t  going to resort to the violence that I had in my heart.   She asked me what my diagnosis was, at which point I told her that I came to the hospital for her to give me a diagnosis.   I literally thought I was dying and this psycho doctor was possibly the rudest person I had ever met.   She called a neurologist and the neurologist said they wanted to see me. Thank God I was done with her.  I later told another doctor how rude she was and he said that was typical of her.  Lovely way to live.

The neurologist gave me a very thorough exam and  sent me to get a CT scan of my neck and brain with contrast.  Now I had to go to the surgical center and get a needle and an IV.  It was scary in there.  Like people dying scary.  My priest got a friend to take the girls.  Maggie was already praying and crossing herself every minute or so.  She even made me speak Portuguese to check on the welfare of some of the other patients.  She needed out of there!

Patients were moaning.  There was blood everywhere.  It was controlled chaos, but still scary.   With my CT scan complete, we had to wait even longer for the results.  Meanwhile,  I still can’t really feel or use my hands. We got called to have a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon. He looked at my CT scan and wanted to be sure that there was nothing wrong with my neck. He examined me fully, but he could give no explanation as to why my hands and arms were feeling the way they were. He said the scans came back clear, but that I would need to see a neurologist again. It seems that I am healing slowly, but have some symptoms that are outside of the normal range. After seven hours, we left the hospital and picked up our kids. To say it was horrific and brutal is a complete understatement.

So what is happening now… I continue to experience intermittent tingling in my arms. I am still exhausted. I still can’t read or look at screens for too long.   I am returning to the neurologist this week.    I realize how lucky I am, because I have had so many wonderful people reach out to me and offer help.    My concussion has allowed me to eat some of the most delicious food I have ever had thanks to a wonderful American friend here in Portugal.   She has cooked up a storm and has allowed my priest to focus his attention on the girls.   I have had lots of people pray for me and continue to pray for me.   I never really understood a concussion or the long road to recovery from a concussion.   The best way I can describe it… it feels at moments like you’re better and then you do something and you realize that you’re not capable of doing anything.  Like the other day when Pippa was writing a letter and wanted to know how to spell the word rabbit and I just couldn’t remember.   Or when my priest asks me if I took my medicine and I have absolutely no idea.   Or when I sleep for 5 hours in the middle of the day and I think I was out for 20 minutes only to discover I lost a whole day.  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy (side note:  I never wish for bad stuff to happen to people ever, even the people I don’t like).

Accidents happen.  Healing takes a long time.  Families have to suffer.  In the end, I will get better.  I am grateful for that.  I am also grateful that my priest and my girls love me so much that they are happily willing to just hold me while I sleep.  Cuddles cure.

My priest has done some pretty hilarious stuff over the last few weeks.  I will save his outtakes for another post.  Eating expired food, burning food, butchering Portuguese…wait for it.  I promise it will be worth it.

9 thoughts on “How did I get a concussion?”

  1. So glad to finally hear at least part of the concussion story. Very worried, though. Shall I come to Portugal and bring chocolate, challah and/or matzoh candy and matzoh ball soup? I tend NOT to eat when worried and could stand to lose a few pounds so I’ll come immediately. Other than prayers, what can I send you from “home?” And speaking of that, I DON’T HAVE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS!!! Send it IMMEDIATELY, please. When you are conscious would be best. Love you crazy. ~

  2. I love to read your stories, thanks for sharing. I’m sorry this has happened to you and wish you were writing about something else. Be well and get better soon. XOXO

  3. I second Frank’s wish for you to wear a helmet permanently!! Rest and rest all that you can – my neighbour had a bad concussion last December and rest was what made her better – she’s 100% recovered now and it was her third one (she has now retired from rugby and hockey!). I’m so glad you have friends to look out for you!! Take care of your precious brain – I always tell the boys it’s my favourite body part of theirs. To which Javier once replied, “I thought you liked my butt the best.” Their cute butts are a close second!! Take care of yourself hugs for you and the girls and one big hug for Frank!!

  4. Oh my! What a tale. I do hope you continue to improve and your recovery is a little faster than it has been so far. Take care and I’m sending you lots of love and hugs and very best wishes to you all.
    Love n stuff

  5. Oh. My. Goodness. This is madness. I had no idea how serious this was. Puts my remark to you the other day about everything happening for a reason into new context. What a challenge for you and your family. You’re going to get better, but holy macaroni, are you guys going to be changed by this!!! Sounds like your priest thought he was going to lose you! Sending you love and prayers!!!

  6. We’ll continue to pray for a complete recovery – for you AND for your priest and your girls! Sounds like a pretty traumatic time all around. In the meantime, take it easy, ok?

  7. Hugs and prayers from your heathen friend in Sonoma. I love reading your stories but this one is way too scary. Ginnelle, take care of yourself. I’ll be sending healthy thoughts your way. Miss you all! Tell Frank to make one of his legendary mint juleps and hang in there! Kohara

  8. Get well Ginnelle (I’m a poet, but don’t know it!) Is it time for another risotto? Or anything, tell us your cravings and we’re on it!


    J & D

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