Monthly Archives: August 2013

BMX Racer From California Speaks Out on the Effect Concussion Has Had on Her Life

{ Editor’s note: I first became aware of Sara the night that she crashed racing in Oregon. I got a message from a concerned mutual friend (a Nationally #1 Ranked BMX Racing mutual friend, at that) saying, “Hey, she popped up online and doesn’t sound real good- you should try to get in touch with her right away and encourage her to get checked out/rest/etc.” –  which I did right away. Despite that, Sara is now writing her story for us and has unfortunately become “one of us”.  – Jay }

By Sara Dooley

saraApril 14, 2013. This is the date I will always remember, my life now separated out to “before” and “after.”  If you lose a limb, the disability is tangible to the general population but when it is internal, people chose not to believe. It was the Sunday main even at the Great Northwest Nationals. I had gate 4, my favorite, and knew I had it in the bag to podium.  The gate dropped and off we went, Girls 36-40 Cruiser class. The riders to my left and right were trying to sandwich me in, and I was not giving up my line. I never saw the rider from the outside cut over to the inside until it was too late. I hit her back tire as she passed and off I went, head first into the dirt. About 2-3 hours later is when my memory came back. While I did not pass out, I did have amnesia. My memory came back when the arena was clear and the vendors were taking down their areas. No matter how hard I try, that time is not coming back to me.

oregon

Sara: Out Front in Oregon

After much pushing and prodding from my friends, I went to the Emergency Room that night. It seems I had broken my helmet where I hit and they were concerned there could be bleeding on the brain. The Doctor ordered a brain scan and thankfully there was no bleeding. They referred me to see my Doctor as soon as I made it back home and explained the severity of a concussion.The next morning I made the 12 hour drive home. Little did I know that my life had transformed.

After seeing my primary Doctor I was put in “isolation” as I call it for a week. No work, phone, TV,  lights, loud noises, or reading-just sleep. I thought this would be hard, but with my head hurting so bad, I wasn’t complaining. I literally slept for a week and then went back to work. This is when I realized something wasn’t right. I had a hard time concentrating, jobs that I could breeze through prior, were now difficult. The more I thought of how to process something, the more my head hurt. I still had a black eye and part of my head was bruised so people understood. Also, the injury was “new” so it was understandable and they accommodated the injured me.

As time went by and the bruising healed, my productivity reached the normal level, my personality came back (for the most part) people expected me to be back 100%. What they didn’t/don’t understand is I am not. It has been almost 4 months since my accident. I have to sleep more than most. Everything I do-no matter how simple, tires me out. Most just a little, but sometimes it takes me a week or more to recover. My brain is fried and sleep is the way it heals. It is like being drugged, no caffeine or anything will keep me from having to sleep. People don’t understand that sometime just a day at work wears me out, or spending the day at the track. Simple things that now leave me needing a day worth of sleep to get back to the new normal. My body can no longer regulate heat like it should. I have to use the air conditioning or drink gallons of ice water if I am going to be in higher temperatures. I have a hard time concentrating. I forget words and how to do things I have always known how to do. I have what I call “the wall” when I am trying to explain something. I can see it-and then the wall comes up and I cannot put it into words. The ability is just not there anymore. If I am tired I slur my words, or have a hard time pronouncing them. I can’t handle bright or flashing lights, they are a circuit overload and short out my brain and stop the ability to think in a logical way. I can’t track fast movement, like in action movies. If the music is too loud, it makes my head hurt. I used to listen to my headphones daily at work, but now I have a hard time listening to music and working at the same time. It feels as though it is too much for my brain to process at once. While these all may seem minor issues, they were not how I was before the accident, and people don’t understand there is a valid reason I cant explain something, can’t remember how to do something simple.

In response to my new shortcomings, people sigh, they roll their eyes, they tell me to knock it off. I’m to the point where I don’t explain anymore, I just apologize-for not being the person I was. This is never something someone should have to do. I find I don’t go out much, beyond the obvious of loud music and bright lights I just don’t want to have to explain myself or why I need to go home early because it was too much. I avoid conversations because I know I am lousy at participating if they become detailed. It has changed my life and trying to accept that, and learn how to live with the changes is hard. Every time I go to the Doctors they move my recovery date. It started out as 1-2 months, then 2-3, and now 6-12. They say what hasn’t come back or healed by the 12 month mark is most likely going to be permanent. They want me to accept this and be prepared for it. Every day I think of what might stay and what may heal-which I think I can live with more than others. I wish I didn’t have to think this way. I wish I could express myself and gain understanding from others, not impatience. But again, I look normal…so how can anything be wrong?