When I had my head injury at 15 years of age, I was confused about what I could and couldn’t do. There was a period of four years where my seizures were not controlled, during which time my medications were being changed and my levels being adjusted. I also had a 2-inch diameter piece of skull missing in my forehead for a little over a year, before having a vitallium plate inserted (I have recently obtained my original medical records that cover this period: it’s sobering reading.)
Often, I was on my own when a seizure occurred. Once I was walking to an interview for a summer job and had a seizure on the sidewalk. On another occasion I was running around the track. My mum initially said I shouldn’t do anymore exercise because it was causing the seizures. This was a reflex reaction on her part and I am sure that she and my dad had conversations in the background that resulted in them letting me live my life to the fullest extent possible.
So, I gingerly made it up as I went along. I could have focused on what I couldn’t do, but my mind was set on identifying what I could do. Before the injury, I used to enter white water kayak races. As much as I wanted to, I decided that sport wasn’t for me anymore. I couldn’t see how I could kayak solo and keep safe if I had a seizure, not to mention protect my head. But I asked myself, what can I do?
The list was long. I got out of hospital during the summer holidays from school. This was prime time for cricket, which I loved. I used to be a wicket keeper (the equivalent of the catcher in baseball). That position wasn’t too safe, given the missing piece of skull. But I felt that I could field in other positions in the outfield and also bat. I had a safety helmet that I used for kayaking – what if I wore that to protect my brain where the skull was missing? At that time helmets were not worn in cricket, but safety was more important than fashion. I also talked to my friends and we adopted modified rules for cricket – no fast balls. This further reduced the chance of additional injury.
With these guardrails in place, I was able to play and enjoy some cricket.
During this summer period I also spoke to my friends about what to do if I had a seizure: pretty much, move things out of my way, don’t put anything in my mouth and if my seizure lasted more than 5 minutes call 999 (the English equivalent of 911) to get an ambulance.
I may not have been able to kayak, but I was able to find other sports that allowed me to safely be active and enjoy the company of my friends, with certain modifications.
I have been lucky to be a positive person and always find ways of achieving more than expected, sometimes by shear willpower. I learned shortly after my head injury and resulting post-traumatic seizures that I chould push the boundaries to achieve more, so long as guardrails were in place for safety.