Sunday, August 13, 2017

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 6 (Or Whatever): Concussion

Alternate title: the dangers of a clean house (well, if someone else cleans it).

My mother moved in with us recently. This not only brings a loved family member into the household, but inspires us to eat better (fewer frozen dinners); to eat together (as opposed to separately, one reading and one watching TV); and to clean the house more often. Or rather, to have it cleaned, as I'm both lazy and somewhat arthritic.

So Friday afternoon, the cleaners finished up, allegedly, and asked if I wished to inspect. We live in a ranch with partially finished basement. I trundled downstairs to the lower floor and stepped into the room we somewhat grandiloquently call our library, a walkout basement room lined with bookshelves and filled with overflow belongings stacked on top of what I vaguely recall to be furniture.

Did it take one step or two? I don't remember, but my feet slid swiftly out in front of me. In that slow-motion way that accidents seem to occur, I had time to think: I'm falling backward. Well, it's not that far. But that's cement down there. CLONK.

I made it to all fours, then slowly up the rest of the way. I got out of the room without further mishap and went up to report to family and cleaners.

Cleaners: "Oh, no! Are you all right?"

KAW, grimly: "I hope so."

I knew a little about severe concussions, having written one into the book I'm now editing, but had the mistaken impression that all concussions leave one with pupils of uneven size. I had also read about the late, lamented Natasha Richardson, who fell on a ski slope, disdained medical attention, and died a few hours later of a brain bleed. So I tried to monitor myself pretty closely over the next couple of hours. When I noticed a faint feeling of pressure in my forehead, coupled with the odd feeling that my skull was a couple of inches lower than usual over my right eyebrow, I asked my husband to drive me to the ER.

The nurse who first processed me ordered a CAT scan. The doctor, however, opined that I had very little risk of bleeding, but most likely did have a mild concussion. Fine. And that I should refrain for at least 24 hours from driving, intellectual work, looking at screens -- TV, computer, and cell phone -- and reading.

NOT fine. I haggled for a bit about the reading, being, as I confessed, addicted to it. She explained that one had to rest the brain after an injury, just as one rests any other injured body part, and that lighted screens, reading, and concentration did not add up to rest. Oh, and don't drink alcohol for 24 hours either.

How do I shut down my overactive brain and get to sleep at night? Well, the ritual includes reading and a glass of sherry. . . .

I still don't know whether bathing my brain in a neurotoxin (my husband's vivid description of my glass of sherry) would have been worse than insufficient sleep. But my husband did what he could by reading to me. He hadn't done that since I was in labor with our older daughter. (I was in labor for 46-1/2 hours, and he got through a good deal of Jurassic Park. Which my daughter says "explains a lot.")

My plans for the next day included Drum Corps International finals. For those not initiated into the world of drum corps, that means hours of magnificent, LOUD live music, while corps members wearing a wild variety of uniforms and costumes march in inventive formations and toss around giant flags, wooden rifles, and not-entirely-blunt sabres . I had asked the ER doctor whether I could still attend. For good or ill, she was a drum corps enthusiast. "Sure!" The noise might seem (even) louder than usual, but I could wear ear plugs if necessary. . . . I didn't think to tell her what good seats we had. In fact, it didn't occur to me until after the first hour or so that I had a stadium's width of bright lights glaring down across the top of my peripheral vision. Oh, well. By the last hour, I alternated holding up my hand as a visor and closing my eyes -- which made the music even more impressive (at least where, as for most corps, it was impressive already).

So how am I? Not, I think, entirely recovered. But after a little online checking, I've decided to cut back somewhat on the reading and screen time (and abstain from booze at our anniversary dinner out tonight), rather than resume the complete fast. Hence this account.

Now to sit in a room with a view for a while, with neither book nor phone in my hand. Adieu.