Monthly Archives: October 2013

Peter Robinson, Father of Northern Ireland Teen Lost To Second Impact Syndrome in a Rugby Match, Speaks Out

benrobinson

Benjamin Peter Robinson

Born 29th May 1996 – Died 31st January 2011

By Peter Robinson

Ben, as he was to me, or Benjamin, as he liked to be called, was an A student who had a big broad smile and a wicked sense of humour. A very caring sensitive boy who hated confrontation, he was a mediator. Growing up, Ben loved ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’, playing football and getting up to mischief. He was fanatical about Man Utd and visited Old Trafford and Wembley to see them play with his step father Steven. He would talk endlessly about who was the best player – Scholes, Ronaldo, Messi, Best, Pele. I brought him to see Messi play for Barcelona, it was a great day.

Ben has a sister Holly who lived at home with him. She was studying for her GCSE at the time. Holly continued to attend Carrickfergus Grammar and has shown great strength and courage, gaining all her GCSE and latterly all her A levels. She is now at College, she is sports mad including football and hockey although this gives me many sleepless nights, but at least she knows the dangers of concussion.

Ben has a younger brother Gregor and sister Isla who lives in Scotland with myself and my wife Carol. There is not a day that passes when Ben is not spoken about or watched on home DVD. When we told them what had happened to Ben, my son Gregor said, ‘can we not take the grass out of the ground and put it into Ben to make him grow better?’ If only it was that simple.

Ben also has 2 step sisters- Sian and Dana and they miss him terribly.

Ben was the most loyal child, he adored his mother Karen, they had a great relationship, since Ben’s death she has not been able to work again, any chance at getting her life back on track or a return to a form of normality seems a long way off.

On Saturday 29th January 2011, I knew that Ben was playing a Medallion match at School, I had spoken to him the previous day he was excited and nervous about the game. Late morning Holly telephoned Carol to say that Ben had been injured in the game and an ambulance was taking him to the Royal Victoria Hospital. At that time I thought, “okay its rugby”. I expected him to get injured at some time, a cut, a broken arm, ankle and my worst thought was a broken neck. I immediately booked flights across for myself and Carol, whilst waiting to travel I received telephone calls from Steven saying that Ben had a head injury and things were not looking good. Waiting on that flight was the longest wait of my life. I just wanted to be with my son.

On arrival at the RVH, I knew Ben had been taken to HDU. We spoke with the consultants and I could tell by their manner that things were not good. They told us that Ben had suffered severe head trauma and was highly unlikely to recover. They expected this sort of injury from a car accident and they said recovery would take a miracle. The staff at the HDU were fantastic. They attempted to reduce the swelling in Ben’s brain by using a new cooling method, but unfortunately this did not help. Seeing Ben lying there in the hospital bed and being unable to help him is a parent’s worst nightmare, I could only hold his hand and talk to him.

On the Monday, the consultants spoke to the family and explained that they believed Ben was ‘Brain Stem Dead’ and they carried out tests which confirmed this. We were approached by the Organ Donor team who made a request to the family that as Ben was so fit and healthy he could help others by donating his organs. As a family we agreed that Ben would want to help others. We wanted a miracle, but knew that Ben could be someone else’s miracle by donating. We know that Ben’s organs helped to save 5 others: a little girl Erin who was 6 months received part of his liver and her parents wrote some time later to tell the family that she was doing well. Knowing that Ben has helped others is somewhat comforting.

On the Monday night, Karen (Ben’s mum) and myself sat all night beside him, holding his hand. We did not want to leave him for a moment. Knowing that that night was the last night we could hold our son was devastating.

On Tuesday he was taken away for the organ donation operation. That was the last time I saw my son alive.

On Wednesday I identified my son at the mortuary.

Ben’s funeral was very difficult. The amount of people who came to pay respect to him was beyond comprehension. The school choir sang at the funeral and they were amazing, singing whilst tears ran freely down their little faces. The headmaster told tales from Ben’s friends, we had music, photos, and I laughed and cried. The school rugby team carried his coffin out of the church and through the streets of Carrickfergus.
Some months later we were contacted by the State Pathologist Jack Crane and he told the family that the findings in relation to Ben’s cause of death were ‘Second Impact Syndrome’. Having never heard this before, he explained that Ben had suffered several concussions during the one match.

As there was a video of the match, we watched this and saw many incidents where Ben had been injured and was seen on many occasions holding his head.

As a family, we wanted to find out what had happened, what had went wrong, and why did no one know about this syndrome? We wanted to make sure that this could not happen again.

We could not get Ben’s death certificate until the Coroner had carried out an inquest into his death. Unfortunately, as time passed, Ben’s team mates were still traumatised by his death and when they found out that it was mismanaged concussion they were devastated knowing that if they had been aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion they would have highlighted it.

The police investigation was long and painstaking and many mistakes were made. The family had to instruct a lawyer to assist with the investigation.

A chance meeting at Ben’s grave between Karen and a school friend led to valuable information coming to light: Ben had been injured several times during the match, all head injuries. He was treated for each one and allowed to play on. It was felt he was fit to play on as he had passed some checks. The video shows that this was not the case. He is seen prone on the ground, not moving on occasions and slow to get up. He is disorientated and is seen constantly holding his right side of his head. Some team mates came forward and made statements that Ben could not remember the score, even although it was a low scoring game. Other statements emerged saying that Ben was knocked out on an occasion.

The family had to have another funeral service when Ben’s Brain was returned to the family. Over the two and half years since his death we have had 2 funerals, 2 inquests and hours of heartache. Finally, on 4th September 2013, we got Ben’s death certificate stating that he had died of ‘Second Impact Syndrome’.

As a family we have a very simple message: we want concussion awareness introduced into the School curriculum. ‘It’s a life skill’

We want mandatory training for all coaches and referees. Players need to be aware, they need to look after each other – a buddy buddy system.

Sports organisations and Unions need to accept that concussion can be fatal. Don’t down play concussion.

Professionals Rugby players are sending out the wrong message in regard to return to play after a head injury.

My son left me a wonderful gift, that I was unaware of until his mum found it in his school jotter. He had written the following :

My Dad
I probably don’t think of him as much as I should,
but when I do I think of all the things
he has done for me.
I think of the endless drives up
to football and rugby matches, I think of all the camping trips,
events and treats organised for me and my
sister. I remember all the plane trips
and drives he’s had to take,
as he lives in Scotland,
just for me.
I know he will ring everyday
to check up on me and know how
I’m doing.
I know I can talk to him
about anything and everything and
that he will give me the right advice
even when I think I don’t need it.
And although he has gained some
weight over the years and he is a Man City fan
I still love him and he loves me.

Ben Robinson

Illinois HS Senior Hoops Player Speaks About Life After Concussion

By Mikaela Broling

securedownload-225x3001Everyone has a story: Enlightening stories, depressing stories and even stories of faith. Each and every one of them have deep feelings and memories attached to it. In reality, they are all different, whether it be how theirs started or ended. I have not always been so keen on sharing mine, but I have come to learn that it is a very important one, one that will make people think, wonder how I keep going, but most of all it is a story of my strong faith and lets people know there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It may not seem relatable, but look in between the lines, everyone has been lost at some point in their life, broken, fearing what is to come next. I have learned to surpass that, and share with people how it is even possible to overcome those obstacles.

My story began the evening of January 24th, 2012. I was a 15 year old girl, who loved  sports! I was a 3 sport athlete, with a total love for  playing soccer! However, on the night of the 24th I was playing a basketball game. That very unpredictable night. I was one of the most aggressive defensive players my team had, and I gave nothing short of my best every time I went out on the court! The team we were playing that night, was a very rough team. Physically and mentally. As the game goes on into the evening, the score board goes back and forth between both teams. After scoring a shot, the score board was now in our favor, and we had to get back on defense. I was in charge of marking their point guard, who had very quick feet and intentionally set me up for the biggest fall of my life. Running to keep up with this crazy fast girl, not aware of where I was headed, I ran straight into a massive post player. I ran right into her shoulder, she was much taller than me and my right temple slammed into her shoulder. After that hit, I freefell to the hard gym floor, it was the back of my head that hit hard against the gym floor.  I’m told it  was the kind of hit that silenced the gym.

Dazed and confused, I tried getting myself up off the gym floor. Miraculously, I did not go unconscious. Eventually my coach ran out to help me off the floor and to the bench. I went into a little panic attack on the bench, because I was so confused. Knowing something was wrong with me, I tried to stay calm. Surprisingly, the trainer at the gym dismissed me as nothing was wrong, just a bump on the head and to go home and sleep it off. No concussion, nothing. My mom on the other hand, was not going to settle that easy, so off to the emergency room we went. I remember feeling so tired and more worn out than usual, and just uneasy with my surroundings in the ER waiting room. Once admitted, the ER doctor came in for the evaluation, and sure enough I was diagnosed with a concussion and told I will deal with post concussive syndrome over the next few weeks or months.  I was told school would most likely become a bit difficult. That night we did not realize the severity of this hit, only the next few mornings would start to bring answers.

My dad was gone on a business trip that week, so my mom and siblings were home with me. In the morning when I woke up, I was in my moms bed with her, rather confused and very quiet. I remember seeing my mom first thing when I woke up, and asking her why I was in bed with her. She said I had a rough night, and thought it was best that I slept in her bed with her.  That day I slept pretty much the whole day and night. My mom said I wouldn’t eat and really didn’t want much to drink.  The next morning I awoke in my mom and dads bed again. My mom just sat next to me talking just a bit to me.  There was a phone laying next to me by the bed in the morning, so I was looking through it, and scrolling through pictures. I was looking at all these faces, they had no names to me. They were all strangers to me. My cousins, friends, boyfriend and even family.. I did not know them or understand why.  I think my mom was just as confused as me. We went through all the pictures together, and none of them rang a bell. This realization was the first of many to come.

Throughout the week, more and more things came about that I did not remember. My recollection of colors, food, geography, family members, friends, animals, places, my past, holidays, seasons, even my own boyfriend. All of those were lost in my head somewhere. My short term memory was horrible, and my long term memory seemed to have went completely missing. Another unusual thing that happened was that I became completely literal. I did not understand the concept of joking, innuendos or sarcasm. Also, cartoon characters and animated shows or movies tended to scare me. I really thought that all of those things were real. Still today, when I become tired, I am more apt to be quite literal and skittish around animation. The most difficult thing though was not knowing who my Dad was.  He  had been gone on a business trip and when he came back I just had no idea who he was. When he started crying, I could not help but to cry either. I mean, after all, I was not sure what I was crying about anyway . He kept reassuring me, and said that all will be ok and I would heal.  As scared as I was, I just kept trucking along.

A week after my accident, I went in to get an MRI. I had a CAT scan in the ER, which both turned out to be normal. My head injury has stumped my doctors and neurologists, as well as, my Neuropsychologists. They say they have never seen a case like this before with so much memory loss . I went on with my regular life as much as I could. I stayed home for a few days from school until I thought I was ready to go back. We did not realize the fatigue I had until I tried going back to school. My school was very understanding with me when it came time to go back. I was on half days of school for the rest of my sophomore year and  3/4 of my junior year of high school. Now a senior, I am able to go full days. I am on a 504 plan, which enables me to get accommodations with school work and tests and gives me extra time on any assignments I need. For about 4 weeks, I knew nobody’s names at school. No teachers, friends, classmates, nobody! My boyfriend, Adam, was the one who helped me with everyone’s names and helped me find my classes. I had to re-meet him several times in order to remember who he was. To this day, he still shares many memories with me that I do not have.

For 6 months to a year after my concussion, I battled  headaches and sometimes dizziness.  When I am tired, I  still struggle with lights and noise. I also have a difficult time now with crowds. The fatigue I have is  like no other fatigue I have experienced before and still struggle with it daily. Naps were a normal thing to me, and they still are. After school, I would snuggle up in bed and sleep for 4 hours when I did half days. Now that I am consistently going full days, every so often I take a day off of school to catch up on my sleep.

As of right now, I am going through neuro feedback, and seeing if it will in fact help my fatigue. I have been resting and going along with my normal life as much as possible.  I  am still getting some memory back here and there. I am hoping to get back my energy like I had before, but I also know that coming out of a traumatic brain injury like this, I will certainly not be the same girl as before. No one could possibly be the same as before. I would say all of the colors, food, animals, geography, people, etc. that I have come to know in these past 21 months, has all been taught to me, or I have learned on my own. As of right now I am still learning these things, I  definitely forget a lot of these common topics, but  I am trying to learn them still. I am not about to give up on my struggle though. I really do love life! There have definitely been times where I could have easily given up, but my faith in the Lord and in myself, along with the love from my family and  boyfriend Adam has kept me on my feet. I have learned not to be embarrassed when I make remarks, or do not understand something, because God has a plan for me. God has a special plan for each and every injured mind.  I Know His plan is an amazing one.  In the book of Jeremiah it says, “Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise”(17:14). This is why I keep going, this is why my experience will be shaped into a story of faith and encouragement for others and also myself. There is always light when things seem dark.