Do I Wear a Helmet?

Cedars in Snow

Hide ‘n Seek

It was my turn to hide while my 4 3/4 year old grandson (he doesn’t let me forget the 3/4) counted to 20. That didn’t give me much time to get into a place where I could be reasonably obscure. I hurried over the stone wall a mere two feet high. I stepped over it knowing the count was close to 20. I moved between some mature cedars eyeing some young ones that I hoped would give some good cover. One more quick move and I would be well hidden.

That was one move too many or rather one move too quick. I was wearing a winter jacket with a hood. They’re warm and comfortable, but, potentially  uncomfortable when they block your peripheral vision. It was a low 5 inch cedar limb that blocked my path. The branch made contact with the side of my head. The game went into sudden death (Not the best choice of words).

The pain was instant. The sensory overload was instant. The sense of confusion was instant. I knew I was in a bad way. The game was over. I knew better than to tough it out.

My grandson was thrilled to find me almost immediately after reaching the count of twenty. I explained to him that the game was over. He was not thrilled about that. I went inside and lay down for an hour. All I could think of was, “Oh, I hope I’m not starting all over again.” Almost two years down the road of recovery and now this.

Living a Flashback

Having the symptoms and effects come back was a strange experience. I experienced both serious disappointment and familiarity. The familiarity was like having an old friend visiting, not polite and mannerly one instead gruff and ornery.

In a strange sort of way the next few days had something comforting about it. The familiarity of the symptoms didn’t leave me with the sense of confusion and denial that I experienced the first time around. And yet confusing. A different kind of confusion. I was experiencing something comfortable and frustrating at the same time? Call it comfrusting.

I must admit it’s comfrusting to walk into a room and once again forget the second and third thing I planned to do. It’s comfrusting to not be able to recall the noun that I needed while explaining something. It’s comfrusting to experience headaches for the better part of each day. It’s comfrusting to experience mental fatigue trying to problem solve household situations. It’s comfrusting to find my sleep even more disrupted, not to mention the restlessness that comes with trying to distract myself from the pains, aches and muscle tension. Tears are once again too close to the surface.

Over the next couple days I experienced a mix of emotions. Disappointment in being thrown back several steps on what is a slow enough recovery. A feeling of my recovery being stalled, testing my patience. Reaching my physical and mental limits too soon in the day. Making it hard to feel useful or productive.

I once again recognized the physical symptoms that had faded away but still too familiar. I realized I had to renew my efforts at managing my limited personal resources. It was time to reintroduce some of the earlier strategies I had been taught. It was time to analyze the activities that would unexpectedly catapult me to my limit. I have to trouble shooting  each day to avoid repeats where possible.

I’m praying that this is the condensed (think quick read) recovery version of my initial injury.

Risk of Re-injury

What happened while playing hide ‘n seek was one of my greatest fears about living with ABI namely the risk of re-injury. A re-injury can be particularly nasty because while one is dealing with post-concusion symptoms the brain is only partially healed and lacks the internal protection that most people have. I hear it all too often that someone compounds the challenges of recovery because of an additional injury. There’s a difference between set backs which actually can be helpful and injuries.

With a brain injury the risk of getting into a situation that causes re-injury is statistically higher. Let me give you one illustration even though there are many others to encounter risky situations. The risk can be due to slower brain processing, through a compromised sense of judgment or the result of living with fatigue.

The risk of tripping is high due. You’re walking across the kitchen and you see a box beside the counter. You know it’s there but your brain is processing too slowly to realize that it’s an obstacle, that you need to step around it. Before all that information gets processed you have a higher than  usual risk of bumping into the box and losing your balance. The risk is further compounded by the brain responding too slowly after contact is made with the box increasing the likelihood of not recovering one’s balance on time.20161217_141304


So, do I wear a helmet that next time I do an outdoor game like Hide ‘n Seek? Maybe. Or I might abandon the parka with a hood in favour of a winter coat and tuque. Besides what’s more Canadian than wearing a tuque with a maple leaf?


Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

10 thoughts on “Do I Wear a Helmet?”

  1. Your post had me consider how sweet is the taste of revenge. Good therapy too. Fuel up the chainsaw, put on your ear protectors, no question concerning the helpmet (put it on!), bless yourself with cedar kindling, and assurance the demon branch will not strike twice. Save the leaves for aroma therapy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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