FEATURED IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A photograph of bright sun shinning behind a large tree in a field. There are horses grazing in the field a light smattering of snow on the ground.
BY: ELIZABETH MacGREGOR
Hope is what people suffering from post concussion syndrome are often lacking. If we were in a vehicle crash, we are sent to clinics, insurance approved, but perhaps not hope approved. Specialists abound who say they know how to treat concussions, but many are attracted to the lure of insurance dollars rather than a helpful, dedicated effort at aiding the concussed.
I often thought I would have fared better had my leg or arm been broken, an injury the helpers could see, and empathize with. Instead this invisible injury was to be diagnosed by what I could no longer do. The list was long and the professionals were challenged by my slow progress. One measurement technique, requiring me to rate myself on many characteristics of a concussion, twice a week for weeks, left me sad and without a recovery plan. As they lost hope, I did as well.
I saw a reflection of what I had become in the eyes of neighbours, in the faces of my family. This strange new reaction to me was unsettling and disturbing. A neighbour told me how worried about me they all were. I was left floundering alone, awash in new misery, without a way out.
As time went on, I discovered two professionals who had a plan to save me, to cheerlead me, to help me ignore the year of floundering medical advice, who saw hope, and made me see hope.
Hope is not a word that I had given much thought to. I was known as an optimistic person before this accident and worked at seeing the world in a positive light. Hope; such a simple word, but such a life altering force. When this life preserver was thrown to me, I grabbed it and held on. I listened carefully, fully, to any advice I was given. I wrote their advice down in a book, as they spoke, reviewing it time and again, to boost my hope. If I was told to do a vision exercise once a day, I did it twice. If I was told to exercise three times a week, I exercised five. They were making me into a believer. I was starting to feel hope. I had some tools and the energy to use them.
When my vision therapy ended I gave the therapists packages of Life Savers. Yes, indeed, their hope in me and their cheerleading led to life saving. Hope was theirs to give, but many professionals do not do this. They assess, they pronounce but it stops there. This group of vision professionals is in the business of giving hope, through effort and hard work.
The other professional who gave me great hope was my neurologist. He coached me to go to the line just before my brain would “flood”, and each time go a bit further, but do not go too far, because it will only keep happening. I listened carefully and the hope of his words calmed me and his advice worked. My first meeting with him left me enveloped in hope, as did every appointment after that. He did not set deadlines for my progress, and did not have me rate every symptom. He reached out to me and gave me science based information and hope.
When you are seeking a helpful professional, keep your antenna tuned to sense hope. If you leave an appointment and it has sucked out the small bit of energy you have, this person is not offering hope. If you leave and feel more upbeat than when you arrived, this could be a person offering hope. I found I suffered greatly at the hands of professionals who could not offer this. I benefited hugely from the few that did.
Your cheerleaders can be friends, family, neighbours, work associates, but your professional team has to contribute to this positivity as well. Hope, a simple word, but so very powerful, so very healing.
Elizabeth MacGregor is a retired teacher/guidance counsellor who enjoys being on a lifelong learning journey.