Cllay Moyle and Caleb Moyle for column






By Clay Moyle


It’s only been five full months now since I was knocked unconscious as a result of a fall off a ladder, but it seems like a lifetime to me. I suffered a serious concussion as a result of the accident and have learned a lot more about post concussive syndrome and its symptoms than I ever wanted to know.

Immediately after the accident, and for the next 4 ½ months, I was obsessed with the vision problems as a result of also suffering something called a fourth cranial nerve palsy from the fall.

Essentially, it resulted in my experiencing blurriness and some double vision during all of that time. I found that I was able to minimize those problems to a degree by tilting my head in specific positions,  but it was a constant battle throughout each day to try and see as well as possible. The worst of it was the first month when I had to tuck my chin into my chest and use an upward gaze at all times to avoid blurriness when I was looking ahead.

One week into this nightmare, I began seeing a neuro-optometrist who specializes in helping patients who have suffered concussions. He provided numerous eye exercises to do each day. After diligently doing all those exercises month after month, a lot of prayer, and time for healing I’m very happy to say that in my last appointment he told me he thought it was now about 98 percent.

That seems a little high to me, but I believe it’s still slowly improving and it’s improved tremendously from where I was five months ago. I’m pretty comfortable with where it is today.

I can’t begin to express how worried I was about my vision all these months. I was so obsessed with the matter that for a longtime I really downplayed the other post concussive symptoms that cropped up.

I’ve done an awful lot of research during this process to gain a better understanding of what happened to me and of late I’ve come to realize that I suffered what is known as a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). I came across an outstanding paper on the subject the other day that I found very informative and reassuring.

Essentially, it said that when the head is hit the brain may be shaken around inside the skull and that can cause the brain to be bruised if it hits the inside of the skull hard enough. But, like a black and blue mark on your arm or leg, it will recover with time and in most cases there are no lasting symptoms or ill effects because the brain is surrounded by shock absorbing liquid and covered by the skull.

The brain is comprised of many thousands of long, thin nerve fibers. Some of these nerves can be stretched or broken if a blow to the head is severe enough. But, they know that they can recover because many people recover in time. That’s often true of the cranial nerves as well but not always the case.

The brain is also comprised of blood vessels which can tear and bleed soon after injury. That bleeding usually stops and those blood vessels heal. In my own case, an MRI revealed that I showed evidence of having suffered scattered areas of micro bleeding. Thankfully, I was told that they didn’t see anything to indicate I would suffer any permanent damage.

But, it’s the bruises, torn nerves and broken blood vessels that are the causes of the unpleasant symptoms experienced after a TBI. The good news is that most people who suffer a mild TBI eventually realize a complete recovery in time because the damage is minor and heals. The bad news is that in many cases it may take months, or even up to a year or more, for that to occur.

The paper explained that one measure of the seriousness of a TBI is the amount of time an individual is unconscious. In my own case, I was told that I was out for approximately seven to eight minutes. And then my next memory is of finding myself in a hospital room a few hours later.

If you were knocked out for less than 30 minutes, the injury was most likely mild. While you can expect to suffer from various symptoms on the road to recovery, there was most likely little injury to the brain and a complete recovery is expected. I was recently told that I should expect a full recovery by a doctor in a neuro clinic.

But, concussions vary widely and there are so many variables involved that they can’t really tell a person when that recovery will occur. All they can do is provide you with a general idea as to how long it takes for most individuals.

Most people who suffer a mild TBI realize the quickest recovery within a three month time period and are back to normal by six months. But, people who are under 40 typically recovery faster and people who are older may take six to 12 months.

As I said before, the past five months have been plenty for me. I’d really like to get off this ride within another month or two and not have to endure that much more of this ordeal.

And trust me, this has been no picnic

. Most people don’t usually develop the various symptoms that can make up post concussive syndrome until days or weeks after their accident, but when they arrive it will typically include a combination of many of the following that will then last for many months: Reduced concentration, irritability, tiredness, low mood/depression, memory problems, headaches, anxiety, thinking trouble, dizziness, blurred or double vision, and sensitivity to light.

I’ve personally consistently experienced at least six of those symptoms for over four months. Thankfully, the vision issues are now behind me for the most part.

But, imagine sailing along smoothly through life and then suddenly suffering an accident resulting in a loss of consciousness and awaking to the realization that you’ve suffered a brain injury, and then beginning to experience many of the above symptoms month after month.

Traumatic is a good word for it.

All of a sudden, your world is turned upside down. You’re very likely in a somewhat dazed confused state and initially take some time off from work or school to recover. But, after a few weeks go by you need to get back to the business of life even though you’re still in a dazed foggy like condition.

So, you start to try and resume your normal activities. But, you quickly realize that everything is harder for you because of the various symptoms you’re suffering from. You try to function as well as possible, but it’s a constant battle to overcome the issues you’re suffering from and it’s very frustrating and exhausting.

In my own case, it started the moment I got out of bed and went into the bathroom to shave. That was an instant reminder that I was suffering from vision problems as I had to close one eye to avoid double vision and eventually very bad blurriness when shaving beneath my jaw line.

I then had to be a lot more careful going down the stairs to make sure I wouldn’t fall. And once I reached the main floor my first order of business would be to perform various eye exercises for the first time that day. It was a necessary task, but the improvement was agonizingly slow and another reminder of how screwed up my vision was.

Preparing breakfast and lunch was a bit more challenging and I constantly had to put my head in different positions to achieve the best vision possible. Eventually, it would be time to leave and that meant having to drive myself to work. Driving always requires a certain amount of concentration, but most of us have been doing it for so long it’s not very taxing. But, when you’re suffering with vision problems and various other post concussive symptoms it’s another story altogether. I found that it required a lot more concentration on my part and was a much more tiring process for me.

That has been true of just about everything I did in life over the past five months. Because of the vision problems and other symptoms I’ve been experiencing as a result of the brain injury, just about everything has been more difficult for me to do during this time. Even though I typically felt as though I was thinking clearly, I was always in a somewhat dazed, foggy like condition as well to varying degrees as my brain continued to heal. It’s just been a real grind.

As I began to put the vision problems behind me, I started to focus more of my attention on the fact that my right hand and right foot had been numb for a number of months. I’d assumed that might be related to nerve damage suffered from my fall. But, more recently I had begun to experience some numbness in my left hand and foot, and around my mouth at times as well so it was really starting to concern me.

It was my sister Cheron, who is a physician’s assistant, who first suggested to me that the cause of all the numbness might be anxiety. She explained that sometimes when people experience a high level of anxiety their body reacts by focusing resources on the vital organs,  and the extremities are the first to suffer.

Initially, I questioned whether or not I could really be causing all that numbness myself as a result of worry and concern. But, after giving it some thought and knowing how stressed out I’d been for so many months because of all the problems and worrying myself to death, it wasn’t hard for me to believe it was possible.

My personality type is probably one of the worst to go through something like this because I’m a worrier, always pressing to accomplish objectives, and I don’t have a lot of patience. There’s a song by a group named Alabama titled ‘I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)’ that my wife and kids said was about me when they first heard it because they believe I’m always in a hurry.

It starts out like this:

“I’m in a hurry to get things done

Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun

All I really gotta do is live and die

But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why”

Well, I haven’t been able to do things quickly since my accident and all the sitting and lying around resting at home that is required of this process to allow for healing has been driving me nuts. My biggest form of stress relief has always been working out, but for the most part I’ve been limited to just taking long walks, and that’s not much of a relief.

Ultimately, I came to accept the fact that it was very likely that I was suffering from anxiety and possibly depression and as a result was undermining the recovery process.

So, when the doctor prescribed some medication for me to start taking to get this under control, I bit the bullet and began taking it three weeks ago with the idea that I’ll wean myself of it down the road.

Sure enough, the numbness slowly started to dissipate and the feeling in my right hand and foot has returned.

Of late, I’ve come to realize that my anxiety level starts to rise whenever I leave the house. Upon reflection, I think that makes sense because for the past five months I’ve felt somewhat disabled as a result of the vision problems and other symptoms I’ve been dealing with. As a result, it’s made it much more challenging for me to function effectively, so why wouldn’t I become more anxious whenever I go out into public?

At this point, I’m telling myself I’ve just got to continue and try and ride this out the rest of the way as well as I can. The paper I’ve been referring to, says some people find that at first post concussive syndrome makes it hard to work, get along at home, or relax.

That’s for sure!

It then goes on to say that the best way to deal with that is to resume activities and responsibilities gradually, to pace yourself and be sure to get all the rest you need.

Sounds like it requires a lot of patience, doesn’t it? That’s not one of my strong suits, but I’ve had no choice but to scale it back. I’ve had to ease back into things at work and they’ve been incredibly understanding and patient about that.

I’ve also put many projects at home on the backburner and have to prioritize things to ensure I get enough rest, even though I feel as though I’ve had enough rest to last me a lifetime of late.

This injury has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve rehabbed from a lot of different injuries and surgeries over my life and it’s always served me well to do so fairly aggressively after some initial rest. But, I’ve learned that a brain injury is something altogether different. More than anything else, it requires a tremendous amount of rest and patience.

I’ve learned that these post concussive symptoms are part of the normal recovery process and not signs of brain damage or medical complications. Having never experienced something like this before I had no idea just how difficult it can be to endure. From my own research, I’ve concluded that suffering a serious concussion can result in widely varying consequences. Because there are just so many variables involved I imagine that no two are exactly alike.

The experience can take you to some pretty dark places. At the lowest points for me, when I was suffering at my worst and wondering if there was going to be any permanent damage, there were times when I felt as though it might have been better had the fall killed me. I felt that miserable.

But, I’ve spent an awful lot of time praying and the Lord has always provided for me,  so I have faith he will get me through this. I’m just sorry that faith apparently wasn’t strong enough to keep me from worrying so much and creating so much anxiety. I also know that there was an army of prayer being offered on my behalf from numerous sources and I’m very appreciative and grateful for that.

I can only imagine how much more difficult this journey would be without the support of my family, and especially my wife who has been unbelievable supportive while rehabbing from her own shoulder surgery.

I can’t wait to feel like myself again. My greatest hope is my head clears and the rest of these symptoms disappear within the very near future. But, if they don’t, I’m confident I’m going to get there and it’s just a matter of when.