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Recovery After Second Concussion

May 13, 2014

I sustained my second concussion 2.5 years after a first mild concussion in the fall of 2011. Symptoms of that first concussion lasted about six weeks and then I was fine.

But last November 2013, I fell outside my home. I slipped on a step, sprained my ankle, twisted sideways during the fall (to avoid falling on my face) and landed on my elbow. The force of landing on my elbow bounced me backwards and I hit the top of my head full force on the brick wall of the garage. My son was inside the garage at the time and he heard my head hit the wall. I was wearing a hat, so there was just a trickle of blood and I only blacked out for a few seconds. 

I was okay for the first week with bruising and sore muscles, but the concussion symptoms started precisely seven days afterwards and I had head pain such that any thinking was incredibly painful. I stayed still at home for four days and then went back to work in my p-t job as a hospital chaplain. Two weeks after the concussion, I had an ocular hemorrhage. I had some time off at Christmas and just rested. I had to stop all my academic work on my proposed doctoral thesis – it was just too painful and working on the computer was very difficult as was sleeping through the night. I was also sensitive to bright lights and noise. I have been able to keep working part-time, but require huge amounts of rest in order to keep up with my job.

The pain in my head was like a black shroud descending and overtaking everything – I took extra-strength Tylenol every four hours around the clock. By mid-January I felt I was at a standstill with my recovery and I started to research (despite the pain) ways to improve my recovery. Then I had an important realization – what does the brain need to heal, I asked myself – protein!

I found an article online about taking certain amino acids to help with concussion-induced impairment and tried a good quality protein supplement with BCAA’s from the local vitamin store. I took ½ the dose recommended for body builders, 4 scoops (about 20 cc each) over the course of a day. The response was an immediate relief from pain which lasted longer and worked better than Tylenol. Initially I would awake in the night for an extra scoop to help with the pain. I’ve also added brain-friendly fats like avocados and goat cheese to my diet. Meditation has also been very helpful. 

Within 2.5 months of starting the protein supplement, my life is now manageable. I am starting back into my doctoral research (with some pain around thinking/remembering, but taking it slowly) and my overall pain level is reduced by 1/3 to ½  of what it was initially. If I have a really busy day at work, I still need to practice stillness the next day – but I am feeling much better. I know that I still need more time to recover, but I am encouraged and want to share the effectiveness of this treatment with others. 

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