Cllay Moyle and Caleb Moyle for column




By Clay Moyle

There’s a part of me that believes it may be too early for me to write a piece like this since it’s only just shy of seven weeks since my fall off a ladder resulting in a third grade concussion and there will undoubtedly be more to the story.

That might be especially true since it’s only over the past few days I feel as though I’m starting to emerge from what now feels a bit like a six-week long fog that I didn’t really realize I’ve been going through. But here goes anyway.

Since the concussion I’ve been suffering from some blurry and double vision and I’ve been so obsessed with those problems that I just don’t think I fully comprehended the fact the old noodle hasn’t been firing on all cylinders.

Now my wife and those closest to me have obviously been aware I haven’t been operating at full capacity despite my own delusions. Not too long ago a friend stopped us on the road while we were out on a walk and when he asked how I was doing I told him if it wasn’t for the vision problems I’d feel as though I was 100 percent.

After he left, my wife told me she’d heard what I told him and said that if he’d looked at her standing behind me he would have seen her shake her head no. Apparently, she and my brother Clint have shared similar looks between one another when they’ve heard me say the only problem I’m experiencing at this time is with the vision.

But as I say, I’m only just now starting to come to the realization the vision hasn’t been my only problem over the past number of weeks.

I found an excellent guide online concerning traumatic brain injuries and it lists symptoms of post-concussion syndrome,  including all of the following with the percentage of cases each is typically found: Sleep difficulties 80 percent, poor concentration 71 percent, irritability 66 percent, fatigue 64 percent, depression 63 percent, memory problems 59 percent, headaches 59 percent, anxiety 58 percent, trouble thinking 57 percent, dizziness 52 percent, blurry or double vision 45 percent and sensitivity to bright light 40 percent.

As I review that list I realize I’ve experienced 75 percent of those symptoms, but I’m thankful sleep difficulties, headaches and dizziness aren’t among those. I only wish I could have avoided the blurry or double vision as well.

I told a friend of mine one of the symptoms I have experienced from time to time over these weeks is depression. They told me they weren’t surprised because my body is used to doing what I tell it to do more than most people and I demand more from it at my age and stage of life than most people do as well.

I suppose that’s true and it’s probably the reason why I went through similar bouts with depression immediately after my first hip replacement 10 years ago.

When I think back upon my first hip replacement I remember being shocked at how exhausted and immobile I was immediately after surgery and how difficult the first month of recovery was. But I also remember eventually being amazed at just how much my body recovered and repaired itself within six months once I started working to get back in shape again.

As a result, when I went through a second hip replacement a year later it was a breeze in comparison because I knew exactly what to expect and where I’d be again six months later if I followed the same process.

My post concussion experience is a lot like that first hip replacement. Once again I’m experiencing something altogether new in terms of the unknown, especially with the vision issues, and there’s a fear of the unknown.

Some weeks the improvement I notice in terms of vision has been as small as being able to slightly lift my head up a little higher while driving or talking to someone than I could the prior week before it gets blurry. Other weeks it’s been being able to shave in the morning with both eyes open most of the time instead of only one because of blurriness.

It’s been downright maddening how slowly the improvements have come about.

As a result, I find myself slipping into periods of frustration and depression at times because I’m unsure about the end results of this process and just how long it’s going to take.

I try to remind myself it takes time and from what I’ve read about post concussion syndrome what I’m experiencing is a normal part of recovery and most patients will be back to normal by three months without any special treatment. But, I’m not the most patient guy in the world and dealing with these constant vision problems has been a very unpleasant experience.

I also know that the results of my fall could have been a lot worse. As an example, a poor guy I ran into in a lobby last week while awaiting a doctor’s appointment told me he’d been paralyzed for an entire year after a car accident and only recently rid himself of double vision after a successful surgery. He looked to be about 50 years old but walked as if he were 90.

I think about a former high school classmate we lost to ALS a few years ago and I can’t imagine the level of courage and patience it took him to endure that process for as long as he did before his death. Frankly, I can’t imagine myself dealing with something like that with anywhere near the level of dignity he exhibited.

I returned to work three weeks after the fall and as I look back upon that decision I realize those who argued against my returning so soon were right.  Every day has been a constant battle to try and achieve the best vision possible under difficult circumstances and I found myself easily fatigued. By early evening I was exhausted.

Most doctors who treat head injuries agree recovery is faster when the patient gets enough rest and resumes responsibilities gradually. Those are two things that don’t come naturally for me, but clearly make a lot of sense.

One thing I’ve come to realize from both this current experience and the various surgeries I’ve had over the past 10 years is just how much it means to receive encouragement and hear from others immediately afterward and while you’re going through recovery.

As a result, I believe I’ve become a more compassionate person in that regard myself and try to make a better effort to reach out to others when I learn about their own trials and tribulations.

Of course it’s also a heck of a lot easier when one has a strong support system and I’m extremely fortunate in that regard as well. My poor wife had shoulder surgery two weeks before my fall and is still recovering from as well so it’s been nice to have various family members pitch in and help out here and there.

Shortly after suffering the concussion, I was under the mistaken impression that it was the first time in my life I’d ever suffered a knockout. But I’ve since been reminded by my mother that I fell off some stairs to the basement as a toddler and knocked myself out when I landed on the cement floor below.

Additionally, while I wasn’t knocked out, I remember rolling off an embankment next to our home when I was about eight years old and smacking my forehead on the cement step below resulting in 15 stitches.

I also rolled off the top of a bunk bed and hit a hardwood floor during the middle of the night a couple years prior to that, and recall awaking with a whopping headache.

Then there were the youth league football experiences on Queen Anne Hill where they taught us to tackle by leading with our helmet. I still remember getting headaches during more than one practice from the drill we’d practice, where we’d line up in a stance about five yards away from another player and then slam into one another helmet to helmet as we practiced tackling one another.

All of that makes me wonder just how many concussions I may have already experienced over my lifetime.

I think kids today are fortunate that there is so much more knowledge about concussions and folks generally take more precaution to safeguard against the dangers than they did when I and others from my generation or older were young.

If nothing else, these experiences will make me more aware of the risks for my own children. My son has been talking about turning out for his seventh grade football team and I was happy to learn that they teach the kids to tackle by leading with their shoulder as opposed to the helmet.

Still, his mother and I worry about him playing the sport and I can tell you that if he were to suffer a mild concussion of any kind the last thing I’d do is let him resume playing after being cleared to do so. Especially after reading about the poor kid at Evergreen High, who recently passed away after a hit on the football field had suffered a prior mild concussion and only recently been cleared to resume playing.

I know of a number of kids here locally who have suffered concussions playing sports like basketball and soccer who are still suffering from the effects one to two years later. So it’s a very serious issue and this experience has certainly heightened my awareness of that fact.

Apparently, one of my new purposes in life has become to serve as a warning to others, as I’ve heard from numerous parties at work that they’ve become a lot more careful on ladders as a result of hearing about my fall. In fact, I learned that one female co-worker went so far as to insist her husband don a motorcycle helmet while he recently cleaned their gutters.

So, maybe some good will come of this after all. I’d sure like to think so because it’s been a downright miserable experience that I sure don’t ever want to repeat.

Be safe out there.