This is my story of epilepsy and how I've tried to deal with it. What I recount are the details to the best of my abilities since I don't remember all the circumstances.
When did i have my first concussion? I can't even remember. Brain injury unfortunately was not a rare occurance for me. I was starting goalie on both my soccer teams and always played very aggresively. I was nicknamed "Little Warrior" and "Bulldog." No matter how hard i got it in a game, or whatever happened, i would always get up and keep playing. In one game, I was actually knocked unconscious for a couple minutes and then got up and kept playing. I brushed off all the numerous contusions and concussions, and eventually lost count of them. The doctors told me with the number of times I'd hit my head, I should be dead. I laughed and told them I had a hard head. Nobody thought anything more.
This past summer, all of that changed. I went to a summer scouting encampment in ohio for two week in august. The first week went by uneventfully. The second week would be different though. Early in the second week, we went mountain biking one morning. Right before we were to go down a steep incline, our leader stopped us and told us to keep 50ft between bikes and to go left at the fork in the road. We all nodded in assent, eager to go down this first real incline. One by one we headed down. I kept pumping my breaks like I had been told to stay in control. Right before i was to hit the fork in the road, one of the leaders stopped right at the fork. I pumped my brakes, but I knew it wasn't going to help. I saw a little bit of brush just beyond the fork and I made my plan. I was going to go down the right fork just a little and then cut left through the brush.
The plan sounded logical to me. However, the turn was too tight and I was going too fast. As I started to make my turn, I lost control and wiped out. My head whiplashed towards the ground and came back up again. I wasn't quite sure what had happened, but decided to just keep on going. I didn't know anything was wrong. I finished off the ride and after lunch felt very worn out. I decided to go take a nap and hopefully I would feel better after that. I'd never really felt this tired in the middle of the day, but somehow I didn't give it much thought. I closed my eyes thinking I would just take a short nap.
The next thing I know, someone is shouting my name to wake me up. I wake up in a daze and realize I don't feel good at all. As I start to get up off my cot to get changed for the bonfire, my friend gets up from her cot at the same time. We bang heads and that is the final straw. I put my head down and lose consciousness. Over the next hour, I drift in and out of consciousness. While they try and arrange for me to go from my tent to the infirmary, no one can quite figure out what happened that I should be losing consciousness from banging heads with another girl, especially since she feels fine.
After lying in the infirmary for forty-five minutes and having no improvement in my status, the doctors at the camp decide to call the hospital. By this point in time I am also complaining of mild neck pain and can't focus my eyes on an object. Once the ambulance comes the strap me onto the backboard again and keep my neck in the stabilizer. The last image I have is the flashing lights of the ambulance reflecting off the white sides of the infirmary.
In the ambulance I would continue to drift in and out of consciousness. My oxygen level was dropping, so they kept me on oxygen for even a while after I arrived at the hospital. When I was asked what my name was while in the hospital, I replied John Paul II. I don't know whether I was joking or not but such is the way things happen when you get hit in the head and drift in and out of consciousness. Once there, the doctors proceeded to take CAT scans of my head and x-rays of my neck. The CAT scan and the x-rays came out normal, so I was diagnosed with a mild concussion and an acute neck spasm. I stayed at the hospital overnight and went back early the next morning. When I got back to camp I was tired and therefore allowed to sleep off the previous night in the infirmary. That afternoon, I was allowed to return to my tent and rest for the next three days on the account that someone would keep watch over me every so often. Over the next three days, I spent much time hallucinating, going into convulsion, losing my sense of awareness, becoming disoriented, and going through various mood swings. Although this should have been a sign, no one took much notice of it. For two days after my concussion, I couldn't walk on my own and couldn't see straight.
After three days of rest, I slowly started moving around. While walking back from lunch at the mess hall one day, a SWAT team demonstration was going on. I didn't know about this, but just assumed it was the normal social hour after lunch. All of the sudden, an explosion went off. I went down into the fetal position and just started shaking. An Army Sergeant came up and told someone to go let the first aid people know that someone was going into shock out here. Once he carried me in to the infirmary and found out that I was the one who had gotten a concussion a couple of days ago, was upset that I would be allowed so near an explosion. I was diagnosed as going into shell shock that day. The remedy was the same - a couple days of rest. Those couple of days were the days that I had left before going home. Once I came home, everything seemed ok, for the first couple of weeks.
A week or so after I came home I was scheduled to have knee surgery. The surgery was successful and I went home. All seemed to be going well. I was back in school in a couple of days was walking just fine. The doctors put me on codeine for the pain, and there were some things that I thought were just side effects, so I made no notice of them. Once I got off the codeine, things got worse.
My vision would get blurry and I would start to see spots or black out. I thought this was only being caused by the pain. The episodes kept getting worse and more frequent, but I didn't do anything. I would lose my sense of awareness and I wouldn't know who I was or where I was. I kept pretending that this was just nothing until I had an episode that was one hour long and I didn't remember anything. My friends knew better and had me go to the doctor.
Three days later I was diagnosed with Partial-Complex Epilepsy. The MRI had a few abnormalities where I had gotten hit on the head, but nothing too serious. Things were different from then on. I couldn't think like I used to, and my attention span was shorter. Multi-tasking was out of the question. The medication was ok at first, then they put me on too much. The side effects were bad and my school work dropped drastically. Things are slowly working out now though. They've switched my medication and I've learned to alter the way I work to the way my mind functions now. It's taken me awhile to adjust to the fact that things will never be the same as they were before and that there are somethings I will never be able to do again, but I'm getting there. As a good friend told me, "It's an uphill battle, and it might get even worse but just keep fighting and never give up."
That's what I've learned from this. Not to give up, no matter how bad things get, you can't give up. Things may seem to only be getting worse, but if you give up, they will get even worse than you could imagine. There is only one hope and that is to keep fighting.
-Korina Rozalia Pacyniak, age 17 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ To be perfect in one's vocation is nothing else than to perform the duties and offices to which one is obliged, solely for the honor and love of God, referring to His glory. Whoever works in this manner may be called perfect in his state, a man according to the heart and will of God. -St. Francis de Sales +Te benidctum Deo+ ++++++++++++