Saturday, February 27, 2016

On That Time I Fell and Hurt My Head

I fell on ice a few days ago. My feet were swept clear out from under me, and apparently I injured my brain. At the hospital, they said it's either a migraine or a concussion, and since I don't have a history of migraines, and since I wiped out earlier that day, it's probably a concussion. The lack of conviction in the diagnosis was a bit unnerving. It sounded more like a guess than a judgment, but I guess I have to go with it.

It's like that time I had a plumber come when my basement was flooded, and he couldn't find a problem with the pipes, so he deduced that it was coming from outside and that I needed to make sure the ground sloped away from the house. But I was dubious because it hadn't rained in weeks, yet suddenly my basement had water. Together we found that the water softener hose had slipped out of the washtub. He duct-taped the hose to the inside of the tub and charged me a pretty penny for his detective work. The hospital trip felt a lot like that.

It worried me right away when the emergency nurse insisted I sit at one of those machines you see at an optometrist's office, because she kept motioning me to the doctor end of the machine. "Have a seat! Sit down there. Yes, THERE!" Had I remained in place, the doctor would have been resting his weary head on the little chin rest, but I switched sides after she left the room. That kind of thing gives one pause.

ETA: I forgot the funniest part. I was in and out of emerg within 2 hours because I'm not just someone who fell, I'm a WOMAN OVER 50 who fell. They kept calling referring that way whenever I changed hands as if to further elucidate my frailty. But it got me to the front of the line.

My eyes are fine, and everything feels symmetrical, and I'm equally weak on both sides of my body, and I didn't even have much of a headache. My butt hurt way more than my head.  But it's still a bit of a challenge to read for any length of time. It's far, far easier to write. I can do it without looking much. Not reading anything or looking at a screen for three days is really, really boring. I tried just listening to The Office, but I was missing too many sight gags, so I admit to cheating a bit and peeking from time to time. At this point, four days in, nothing bothers me as long as I don't read.

Truth is, I forgot about wiping out by the time I got to school. I hadn't given it a second thought. It registered at all only because I had actually said, "Oof!" right out loud like they do in cartoons. I pride myself on falling with some measure of stoicism, particularly since I'm perpetually surrounded by students. But this was an exception. It knocked the wind out of me. I was wearing Docs, which are notoriously slippery, and it had just started freezing rain, so I was walking at a good clip instead of carefully. After it happened, a student across the street called out to see if I was okay, and I noticed others take to the uneven lawns instead of risking the smooth, hard cement of the sidewalks. Smart.

I even forgot that I had had a headache, and it wasn't until the admissions nurse asked if I had taken anything like Advil or Tylenol, that I remember I had taken BOTH shortly after getting to work. So, logically, I must have had a headache and treated it myself, then soldiered onwards ready to attack the day. I felt fine.

During my first class, I was showing a film, We Were Children. It's a haunting video about the horrors of child sexual assaults in the residential schools. I had previewed it and warned the students up and down, but one viewing was enough for me, so I busied myself with marking online. Except I struggled to see the words in a brief response paragraph. I could see them, but it was as if the right side was faded, and it didn't change if I covered my right or left eye. I had just gotten reading glasses, so I tried them too, but they made no difference. I started reading each word separately, and it felt like I was making some headway, but then I couldn't put all the words together to make sense of them. They were separate entities without connection to their neighbours.

I decided I was going blind, and it's curious how quickly I resign myself to tragedies. Decades ago, when my oldest was stung by a bee and her face started swelling up dramatically, I just stared at her, stunned and useless, until a neighbour happened by. Shoved in the back of her car, with my toddler in my lap, I remember thinking that it's nice that Mother Teresa had just died to help her on her way. You can take the girl out of the Catholic church...   Anyway, I had resigned myself to her death long before anyone had a chance to take her pulse, much less call it. But she recovered completely and life went on as before. I tried googling sudden blindness, but I could only read enough singular words to solidify my uneducated diagnosis. I would have to get a program to read to me and that could type what I dictate. I started wondering about the cost of such a thing, when there was a pause in the action of the film. It might be a good place to stop for the day.

I stood up and checked the clock at the back of the room to judge if it was a good time to stop and re-cap before the bell. But I couldn't seem to read the clock. Not being able to see words on a screen is one thing, but losing my vision entirely meant no more biking. That's a different kettle of fish, and I'm not sure I could afford whatever mechanics might be necessary to allow my life to continue as is. I sat back down and just waited for the bell to pause the film.

With the lights on like a stadium, and the next class filtering in, things got so much worse. I started explaining taxation - where the money comes from at each level and where it goes. It's something most kids don't really have their head around, so it's an important lesson. But the kids were confused. Except instead of typical comments like, "It's not fair they charge more taxes on cigarettes," they were saying, "What are you talking about?" and "What are you trying to say? You're not making any sense!" I told them I didn't know what I was saying, and I started to laugh. It was so bizarre. There were waves of light making their faces all woogley in my right field. It was like driving with a bright afternoon sun filtered through trees on the highway like a strobe light, and I felt the need to put my hand up to try to shield myself from the light. If someone had admitted to putting acid in my drinking water, I would have been so relieved! No such luck. I gave up on the lesson and handed out an assignment that typically takes significant instruction, but I had the handouts at the ready, so they'd have to muddle through on their own. Then I said I'd be right back, and I bolted for the office.

It occurred to me I should call the office for help, instead of deserting my class, but there was no way I could figure out the phone. It was a mystery to me.

I told our secretary that I thought I was having a migraine, which I had only heard of described like this, or maybe I had a pinched nerve or something weird, and she got me in to the VPs. I didn't tell them I was going blind. It seemed ridiculous, and saying it might somehow make it true. They turned off the lights, and I felt much better. After a few minutes, I could read and understand the clock in the room. They had the wherewithal to ask if I might have injured myself recently, and I told them about falling on the ice that morning. The one line I remember: "I don't think we can discount a possible connection between falling on the ice and what you're experiencing right now." Actually, he said it better than that (better meaning it made me laugh), but apparently there isn't even one line I can remember from that morning.

But I still don't entirely believe there's nothing wrong with my eyes. I mean, I believe it intellectually, but it's hard to take in entirely when it's so painful to look at things, and it's still an effort to read a string of words online.

But now I'm days behind on marking. Maybe tomorrow. I'm glad I can still think and write fluidly. This little exercise in descriptive writing was very encouraging - except when I tried to proof it.

I appreciate when I get to these times that have me resigned to a misfortune blown way out of proportion. I was okay with never writing anything significant or sensical again - maybe even not teaching again. I could have become that weird teacher who doesn't really make any sense but is absurdly hilarious and gives everyone 90s. And there's always taped books to listen to. But biking is more important to me than I had thought. There's just no substitute for that.


Lorne said...

You have described a very frightening experience, Marie. Coincidentally, yesterday I got quite a wallop on the back of my head thanks to betrayal on the part of my articulated ladder (don't ask). Last evening I started having some pain in my neck and some very paranoid thoughts about the possibility of a loss of brain function, but this morning I seem more or less as normal as I ever am.

I hope you are feeling better now. If symptoms persist, I would recommend seeing your family doctor.

Marie Snyder said...

Yikes - You should probably take it easy a few days just in case.

I'll be in for a follow-up this week. I felt mainly fine within a couple hours, but it can be sneaky.