Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Suffering vs Managing"

In sharing my personal experiences with concussions with others and as a traumatic brain injury survivor, I understand that many who read my story, but more importantly, those who write my story might not fully understand the words used to describe my experiences. When I was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome in 1990 it was a relief because I originally thought I had a brain tumor. I had no full understanding of what it was as I can remember asking my doctor, "will I live?" He smiled and said, "you'll live, but you will have to learn to manage it." So, for more than 25 years I've lived, I've learned and I have done my best to manage something that I acquired a very long time ago. One of the things I can definitively say is I have never considered myself as one to "suffer" from Post Concussion Syndrome. Like a good patient I've followed the instructions of my doctor to "manage" my condition and in doing so I live what I consider to be a pretty "normal" life. In living that "normal" life I make time to exercise often, I eat healthy foods and drink lots of water and fluids. I do my best to get plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations that could trigger a headache. More importantly because I have been diagnosed with a brain injury I understand that I often might look at things differently than someone who has not sustained a head injury.

Unfortunately some reporters, writers or people who have recently delved into the world of Concussions, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Traumatic Brain Injuries or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder issues too often paint a doom and gloom picture of individuals living with those conditions. What I don't necessarily care for and what burns me up are the writers and reporters who willfully embellish the severity of the condition to sensationalize it for the sake of drawing greater attention to their article or story and paint the subject of the article as a very "sympathetic" figure the reader should feel sorry for. When I do any interview with members of the media, especially the sports media who generally are not up to speed with medical or neurological issues, I now make certain to emphasize that I do not "suffer" from Post Concussion Syndrome! Instead, I "manage" my life quite nicely, thank you! I actually enjoy sharing what I know with others on sports-related concussions to at least give them an insight into a subject many have no true understanding. Anytime I consent to do an interview, sit on discussion panels, lecture groups or speak with anyone who would like to learn more about the long term effects of head trauma, I make certain to emphasize what Dr. Kutner shared with me, but with my own little spin, "You can live with the condition, you just need to know how to manage it."   

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have the opportunity on a daily basis to share with many who have joined the ranks of those who have sustained some type of brain trauma or brain injury. The spectrum of individuals effected is wide and greater than most people think. From young kids who were concussed playing a contact sport like youth ice hockey and Pop Warner or pee-wee football dealing with headaches to once world class athletes who are now Hall of Fame former athletes dealing with memory problems that stem from head injuries sustained many years ago. From members of the military who have survived bomb blasts and are now Wounded Warriors to average everyday women and men of all ages who have been in automobile accidents or have slipped and fallen striking their heads damaging their brains. The message I share with all is "manage your condition, refuse to suffer."  

Continue to live the best life you can...!

-Harry

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