That it has been!

On the 10th December last year I had a fall off a trailer at home and knocked myself out.  12 big blue stitches in the three deep gashes in the back of my head, a few hours in A&E, and I was back home again with a booming headache but not too much more, so it seemed. The rest of the school year was spent on sick leave as the doctor instructed a few days off resting and keeping up the panadol.
One of the good things about being on holiday is resting when you are tired and doing just what you want for a week or two … so that’s what the Christmas holidays were. I knew I was pretty tired, knew the world spun a bit even though I was still, knew I was having real trouble word finding and remembering peoples names. No driving, no alcohol. What I had no comprehension of was just how much it was affecting me and that I was not really getting a lot better over time. I probably still don’t really get how bad I was ‘cos I was so bad …. if that makes sense.

As the time approached to return to school it dawned that maybe this was all going to be a bit harder than I expected. But surely a couple of mornings working at home a week would allow me to catch up? We had ERO coming so I needed to be on deck. Hmmmmm! The fatigue and fog you can be in with a concussion cannot be underestimated!

I spent the beginning of the term working part time, and only a day a week in the principal role. ERO came and went. I crashed. For the last month of last term I was off school completely and spent a lot of time simply working with the physio to get my vestibular system back in order so I was not getting ‘the spins’ and feeling sea sick all the time. The occupational therapist has provided all sorts of strategies to manage the memory issues – our kids teased me for ages that I had the memory of a goldfish; once around the bowl and it was gone. I know though that at the beginning of the school term I was having problems sustaining a conversation for more than a few minutes …. which was funny at one level but also massively frustrating and hugely demoralising at the same time for me. I know it must have driven people at school nuts, it did at home at times! After a couple of hours at school I would come home and sleep for at least the same amount of time.

The clinical psychologist from the ISIS centre has been fantastic in getting me set up for a return to work this term. Understanding what has happened cognitively; the things I can have an impact on and the ones that trying hard on will simply make more difficult has taken time, lots of time. It is a huge challenge to go from being someone who deals with multiple things all the time and at a reasonably high level to someone who has to concentrate really hard to read the newspaper or watch the news. Medication has stabilised the brain chemistry stuff and now I am told I pretty much had a ‘stroke without the bleed’. All from a ‘relatively minor’ bang on the head ….. crazy! We take concussion so lightly in NZ … its only a couple of weeks off if you play rugby! We need to get a lot more real about this ….

It feels good to be back at school, and more importantly to have a head clear enough to be able to be there and not just get in peoples way. It feels good to be back at home too, able to take a full part in the family stuff. Drive with the 4WD club for a full weekend over Easter; go out for tea and be able to concentrate on the conversation in the restaurant over the background noise. I’ll be on medication for the next 6 months or so and still find remembering names a challenge sometimes, even people I have known for years. But things are getting better and better.

The moral of all this …. take nothing for granted. Life is not a dress rehearsal, and can turn upside down in a fraction of a second! When the pressure comes on you find out those who really care and those who don’t notice. Jane and the kids have been fantastically patient, understanding and supportive. Others have had a knack of saying just the right thing at the right time; being there when needed and offering support. Turning up for coffee, phoning, timely emails. Friends have shared their experiences I never had an inkling of before. The bubble of my world has grown from not even big enough for me at the end of 2010 to much more like normal now …. finally.

Life will never be the same – the journey continues!

9 Responses to “Quite a year ….”
  1. I feel bad cos I never realised how bad things were. You told me of what had happened and I saw you on iChat and assumed things were getting together and you were just busy with the rigours of doing what you do.

    I went to Sydney before these holidays for the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute and got pneumonia while I was there and ended up on drip at the airport with dangerously low blood pressure and not allowed to fly home.

    I spent the rest of the holidays lying down in a dark room and am only now regaining some of my stamina.

    Sometimes it’s just good to get off the treadmill and make time for what is ultimately important.

    It makes my blog title more relevant- ‘Life is not a race to be first finished’.

    Take care and take the time to get well.



  2. I hope your recovery moves forward quickly. True how we take so much for granted and suddenly your perspective changes due to the unforeseen. I have missed your insight on this blog and hope you continue to think out loud here.

  3. Greg, I’m glad to hear you are on the mend and like many who read your blog, had no idea that you were so laid up. I just assumed that you were just taking a blogging break because like me, the blogging muse had gone silent for a bit. A teacher at my kids’ school had a trip and landed heavily with concussion and she is easing back into her role over the next month, so it sounds like from your experiences, that this is the right approach. So, take it easy and look after yourself.

  4. Hi Greg

    Wow, … oh wow… thanks for sharing this journey. You got my attention tonight. How precious life is…

    I am glad that you are feeling better and have been able to get back to school more. Great to hear your “bubble” has become more normal.

    May the Lord bless you and may this experience enrich your life!

  5. All the best mate.

    As others had said I never realised things got bad.

    Sorry to not know and not be able to offer any help in what ever small way I could from a distance.


  6. As our family has had our world upended through health issues I totally get what you are saying here. There are things in life that you only ever expected to donate a bit of cash to the appeal fund, not to absorb as part of your daily reality. It really does change your perspective and cause you to be continuously grateful for each and every day you end having been sound of body and of mind.
    God bless you and your family as you find your way back to health and well being.
    da Burts

  7. Too true! All sentiments already shared reflected here. Here’s to a full and solid recovery. Good to have you back Greg. I’ve missed your blogging.

  8. I had no idea Greg… 🙁 Thoughts with you and the family…

  9. A great piece of writing Greg, very heartfelt.  Go well. Lisa

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