David Ruyffelaert’s Concussion Story
I am from Longmeadow, MA and currently attend Wentworth Institute of Technology.
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I have had 4 diagnosed concussions and I believe 2 more undiagnosed with my longest recovery being more than 12 months.
Symptoms I experienced through my recovery included headache, feeling slowed down, feeling like “in a fog”, don’t feel right, and difficulty concentrating.
Emotionally, the most frustrating aspects of my injury/recovery was not being able to participate in daily life as I used to.
What I Would Have Done Differently
My last prolonged concussion occurred while snowboarding. Two and a half years later I still experience symptoms. Within this time I have learned many do’s and dont’s regarding the recovery process. I understand every concussion is different and should be treated differently. So please take everything I say with a grain of salt as it may not regard to your concussion recovery.
The first and largest mistake that I hope you can learn from is taking your symptoms very seriously from the beginning. Immediately after hitting my head while snowboarding I had a headache and felt a little “out of it.” This was not my first rodeo as I hit my head pretty frequently from snowboarding. I ignored these symptoms because I didn’t lose consciousness; I thought this injury couldn’t have been that bad. I proceeded to go about my life as a college kid on winter break, going out at night drinking and snowboarding every couple days. But these symptoms continued to get worse and I continued to ignore them and blame them on hangovers. I only recognized my symptoms two weeks later when I was shopping at a store and I couldn’t even read the name tags on the clothes. Then I realized I need to see a doctor. I believe if I didn’t ignore my symptoms from the beginning I would have been concussion free within a month.
My second mistake that I hope you can learn from is do not drink alcohol while you are in your recovery process. I learned this the hard way in a number of instances and if I add the months it took me to recover from these nights of drinking I’m sure it would total over 9 months. If you are going through college during your recovery process this can be one of the most socially difficult life style changes you will face. While drinking your symptoms might magically disappear like I found but when morning hits your symptoms will come back 100 times harder. What I found is even when I had no symptoms and drank alcohol, the hangover’s symptoms would mimic my concussion symptoms so I couldn’t tell if it was concussion related or just a hangover. This self-doubt will bring anxiety and result in an increase in symptoms. Not having alcohol might be difficult to some and easy to others, from my experience nothing good comes from drinking during your recovery process. Just think the more dedicated you are to recovering, the faster you will get to being 100% back to normal life activities.
The third mistake I hope you can learn from is do not push yourself to the point of getting symptoms. I did this in many instances where I put my health to the side and focused on my future. Something I would have done differently is I would of taken more time off from school after the concussion and relapses. This time off is crucial to recovering. I was more focused on studying and getting good grades which constantly was increasing my symptoms. Another instance in which I willingly pushed myself was the summer after my concussion. I got an internship where I did a lot of 3D design on the computer. This was terrible for my recovery and every day my symptoms got worse for my three months working. I struggled through because I thought it would look great on my resume but my health suffered tremendously. Put your health and recovery before anything else, having a resume booster is not worth feeling terrible for months. This sums up three of my biggest mistakes and I hope you can learn from them to have a speedy recovery.
Advice I Would Give To Others
My advice to you is to be positive and keep moving forward. Your symptoms will subside, it just takes time. Do not be afraid to talk to other people who have gotten concussions, they are your best resource. Doctors can also be very frustrating, always telling you to take it easy and wait for the symptoms to subside. If a doctor is not helping you don’t be afraid to ask around and find another doctor who might fit your needs better. The key to my recovery was finding a doctor that pushed me to not hold myself back and continue to progress physically. Before this doctor I thought the best way to heal was just to do nothing. I understand this might be the case for some people but not for me. Slowly progressing in cardio has been the best thing for me.
I hope my concussion story will make you realize you aren’t alone. You will get though these symptoms and return to a concussion free life.
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