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Hello everyone,

I want to write this while I can. It has been a long time since I have been on Sailnet or anything electronic. I have not had a choice, honestly. Doc's orders and this is one of many things which make me sick. Looking at the title above, I suspect you can guess why.

We all talk about the great dangers of falling overboard. Isn't that the biggest danger facing a sailor? Or is it getting caught up in the engine? A hurricane? Lightning strikes? I will tell you that I have been boating, as many of you know, a very, very long time. I believe the greatest danger may in fact be the least talked about: concussions.

Only recently have concussions come to the forefront in mainstream sports and media. Athletes that mysteriously died or over time began acting very strangely. I am not sure I really took a lot of that seriously. That is to say, I was always cautious of whacking my head, but I had no idea the real and severe repercussions of it. To me, a concussion was getting hit on the head, being knocked out, and assuming your eyes are not bleeding or are not incorrectly dialated, then sniff some salts man and get back out there on the field. I cannot tell you how many people have told me something similar after my injury. Well folks, I am here to tell you that you would be so lucky if that was all that it was. Everything I knew about concussions changed one day. Let me tell you the story and I hope all of you will read it and remember it.

It was a bright, sunny day. Light wind. I was tied to the dock (wall) at Marathon City Marina. I had to take off my dodger to get repaired. Usually on my boat, the dodger keeps you from coming up and smacking the boom. So while I was taking it off, I stood up quickly and cracked the top of my head on the bottom of the boom. I did not pass out. Let me say this again and read carefully: I DID NOT PASS OUT. I think that is one of the most important things you will read in this story. I saw stars and went black a moment, but other than where I hit my head, I was alright.

I kept taking off the dodger and began walking down the dock to drop it off at the canvas shop. For those that have not been there, the dock at the City Marina is just a wall on land with a concrete walkway. After about 20 steps, I started getting a severe headache. It was everywhere except my face, and somewhat down my neck. I thought for sure I was coming down with the flu. I took a few more steps and suddenly the dock was moving. As I said before, the dock is land. It can't move short of an earthquake. A moment after that I nearly vomited over everyone. I turned around, dragging the dodger behind me (eventually dropping it), scrambled onto the boat, dropped into my berth and promptly fell asleep. There was nothing, NOTHING, that was going to keep me from falling asleep.

I woke up the next day. Many people don't. In fact, they don't wake up again. I began to suspect something was wrong beyond the flu. I couldn't stand sunlight, and it only took minutes before I got my headache, dizzy, nauseus, and again passed out from sleep (in that order). The same cycle over and over. THose cycles still persist today, over three months later... though generally not as bad. More on that later.

Of course I had a concussion, but I did not know it at the time. I didn't think it was possible. I was not knocked unconscious and I didn't think I hit my head that hard. Aren't you supposed to really get hit? Aren't you supposed to be knocked unconscious? No. No, you are not. I hope that settles in to everyone reading this too.

My point in all of this is education. I pride myself on trying to be the most knowledgeable sailor and safest sailor I can be... and I didn't know. I believe there are a lot of misconceptions on concussions and how dangerous they really are. So let me give you the signs. A person with a concussion may experience all or none of these... but it seems most of the people I talk to have every one of them (including me):

Severe headache. The headache is not centralized. It is your entire head. In fact, you may not feel the injury at all. I didn't after they started.

Incredible aversion to light. Light gives me a severe headache and if I do not mitigate it (quickly), the domino effect below begins.

Dizziness and Nausea. It feels like the last few minutes of being drunk where you are dizzy but ready to throw up any time. I don't know how else to describe it.

Fatigue, extreme need for sleep. This is the BIG danger signal. It means your brain could be hemorrhaging. Don't go to sleep and don't let anyone under your care go to sleep. I will tell you though, I don't think anyone would have been able to stop me even had they tried.

Sleeplessness: The injured person may also not be able to go to sleep. This did not start for me until a couple of weeks afterwards, but still persists in full force today. For example, I finally fell asleep this morning at 730 am.

Excessive anger and depression. The anger struck me immediately. In fact, as odd as it might seem, I felt that before the headache. I was yelling at Kris or the kids for anything. I couldn't help myself.

Some other comments about the above: the person may or may not seem distant or incoherent. I refused to go to the emergency room. I "had the flu". Nothing more. It is very likely the person with the concussion is not thinking clearly. Looking back, I sure didn't. But as the injured person, I will tell those reading: you don't know that. You dont know you are not thinking straight... and you are not. It is like your mind is breaking down and scrambling reasonable thoughts.


My suggestion for anyone who shows any of these signs is to get to the ER immediately - especially if they are experiencing fatigue spells. It is serious business and deadly. I was very lucky. However, even now, I struggle with a lot of the symptoms.

I am very light sensitive. I cannot do anything on computers or anything electronic without getting the headaches (which often come anyways). If I do anything mentally taxing, I get a severe headache and generally nauseous and dizzy. I have not had a sleeping fit in quite a while, but I do get tired and have to stay in a dark place with my eyes closed. My anger management has not really improved and I often say and do things I later cannot believe I said or did.

Your neurologist will help you with things to improve your condition. I will tell you the things that have helped me, as many of these could be on a boat:

Hydrocodone helps the headaches. As you know, I am a big fan of carrying that drug aboard for cruisers. But watch out: that drug is a snake and can bite you. But in many instances, it can at least get you functioning enough to seek medical attention.

There are some drugs for migranes that help. The newest ones (I forget the names now) are VERY expensive. They run about $50/pill and might last half a day. Two a day would not be unreasonable. If you don't have insurance, forget it. And even if you do have insurance, it often only covers about 8 of these pills a month. Another pill that helps me is Fioricet. It is cheap like hydrocodone. But like hydrocodone, it can be a snake (addictive). Being a barbituate, many physicians don't like prescribing it at all (it is a Sch III). But it worked for me and at least made life functional. I also take a drug called Propanolol. I think this has worked some, but it may take weeks for this product to start kicking in and working, and even then, it only reduces the headaches - it does not eliminate them.

A dark room has been a Godsend for me, and I think every other concussion patient. It surely does not cost you anything and is not addictive, but you can't sit in a dark room the rest of your life. I did it for weeks, and I think that leads to other issues such as depression and anger. However, for those that are trying to get the injured person to help, this is a temporary solution (but be prepared for your neuro/psych to make it a long term stay).

Tylenol, aleve, and ibuprofen are absolutely worthless (or were for me). My Neuro said they are often completely ineffective for this injury and are only good for ulcers. My experience agrees with that.

Absolutely NO brain activity. ANything that makes me think is a killer for me. I could not help my son (who we homeschooled aboard the boat) with basic algebra. Do NOT watch television or do any kind of electronics (like I am doing right now). I could talk to people on the phone for short periods, but that was it. No reading. No games. No NOTHING. Sit there and stare at the walls for days/weeks (now you see why the depression kicks in). However, here is something really weird: I found that playing the guitar (in the dark of course) helped me. I have no idea why and that may be an anomaly due to my specific concussion. Maybe there is something like that which you can do that might also help? I don't know. Experiment and try I guess.

I want to point out here that I am NOT a physician. I am NOT giving anyone medical advice. I am giving you my experience and what works and what has not from the patients point of view. My experience is similar to that of other concussion patients, but it may not be for you or how your neurologist directs care. My only real medical advice here is to seek a neurologist/psychiatrist for your concussion and not rely on an ER doctor or family physician. My neurologist quickly changed some of my ER doctor's scripts and she has been the first one to help me to at least function.

I am sorry for all the many typos and incoherent sentences. I have had about as much of a headache as I can stand right now doing this. I just wanted to get the word out to my friends and sailors about this while I could. THis is one of the things that can happen anywhere and at any time. It doesn't have to be on a sailboat or a motorboat. It could be anywhere. If it does, hopefully you will remember some of this rambling mess and it will help you.

Brian

PS Please understand if I am absent a lot from here and my apologies for not responding to the many PM's and messages. Now you know why.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Brian
Sorry to hear this and thank you for your very instructive post. One of my biggest worries in cruising is dealing with major health and injury issues and this certainly qualifies.

Hope you are back to normal sooner rather than later.
 

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Dang! Take care of yourself and this place will stumble along just fine until you return good sir. Heck, let Smack be your fill in for a while. This place would be a crack up if the Ban Stick Thread Man actually had the Ban Stick. :D

Take care of that head. It's the only one you get!
 

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man get better soon! glad it turned out ok

thanks for the info too
 

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While my symptoms were less severe than yours, I was knocked out cold and even got an ambulance ride that I do not remember. In short order my symptoms disappeared, with the possible exception of that quick anger/irritability thing.

Be well soon. Hope to see you in December.
 

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A girlfriend once called to me to chuck her a beer. So I did. The bottle hit her head at about 50 feet.
She was effected for about 6 months!
You last post was nearly 4 months ago!
So wow, man, I know it can take a while.

She was a great girlfriend. But I broke up with her cos she spilled that beer.


;)


Actually, thats a lie. The concussion turned her into a raving sex maniac.

Thats a lie too...:rolleyes:

Get better quick! We will dim the lights here a bit...

Mark
 

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Yes, thanks for the write up.

I did something similar couple of years ago, wacked my head on the boom. I went down and out, briefly. Got up, shook it off and went on. No biggie.

Three nights later while laying in beed I started to shiver for a few seconds, then again harder, then again harder still, on the last cycle my hands and arms were flailing uncontrollably. Then it stopped. Not a concussion but a seizure.

Thankfully it has not repeated despite cold cocking myself again a month later in our basement on a low arch. Out cold in slow motion. Took me maybe 6 seconds to pass put, I remember thinking "****, I gonna fall into the trash can!" And I did.
 

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Get well soon, CD. Glad you're seeing a neurologist.
 
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Brian, glad you survived. A lot of concussion patients I worked on did not. For those that do not know, a concussion is essentially the bruising of the brain - which frequently is not instantly fatal, but can be over a period of hours or days. I spent 15 years working in the field of medicine at the largest shock trauma center in the world at the University of Maryland. I saw concussions nearly every day of the week, mostly from motorcycle accidents.

I had a mild concussion while in Marathon's Boot Key Harbor. I too was berthed at the City Dock, right in front of the office. I had forgotten to slide the hatch back before ascending the ladder, slammed my head into the edge of the hatch, blood was everywhere, and while I never passed out, the pain was excruciating. One of the guys that worked at the marina saw the incident, jumped on the boat, put a pressure dressing on my head, and off I went to the ER. No stitches required, but they did shave a neat bald spot where my head was sliced by the hatch, then butterfly bandaged the would, gave me a shot for the pain, did some X-rays and told me to take it easy for a couple weeks, which I did. I experienced the same problem with bright lights, looking at the stark white PC screen, and eventually, after three weeks, I was able to go back to playing music at Sombrero Resort and the marina tiki hut.

The following day, after I thought about what I had done, I hung a yellow ribbon from the hatch. If the ribbon touched me, I did NOT go up the ladder. Nice safeguard and very inexpensive. I personally know at least one person that slammed his head into his boat's hatch in the same manner, ended up in the hospital with a fractured skull and severe concussion. He wasn't able to work for a year afterwards.

Keep us posted on your condition, Brian, and I hope to meet up with you next January at the marina.

Gary :cool:
 

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Brian,

I am really sorry to hear this, you have been missed.

If it helps at all I suffered from a concussion a few years ago when I slipped and landed head first on the cockpit sole. I was lucky and wound up at an opthalmologist (my uncle) within the hour. He immediatly put a pair of glasses on me with a rose tint (the color is FL-41) that filters out blue light. Aparently this lense is supposed to help the difficulty in looking at screens.

He also suggested switching to a green background (computer). And lowering the resolution of TV screens. Both of which are to reduce the processing load on the visual cortex. I did these things for a few days until the symptoms went away. But they really did help.

Good luck to you.
 

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Wow! Glad to hear you are doing better! It's true that we hear about concussions, but we sure don't hear about the effects very often. I was telling Unclejim about your incident, and it reminded him of an article he'd read recently about the use of Omega 3 (fish oil) for head injuries. A lot of it anecdotal, but is interesting. Here's a link if anyone's interested: 'He's going to be better than he was before' - CNN.com
 

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Got my first concussion at the age of 5... was passed out for nearly an hour, was laid up in bed for 2-3 days... took me weeks to get over the bright lights thing, and I was a kid, that seemingly heal quicker.

With all the boating trips I've done, and how many times I've whacked myself with the boom, or walked into it... its a wonder I haven't had more.

I am very sorry for what you are going through, and hope for a speedy recovery. God Bless and keep us posted when you can.
 

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Very sorry to hear that happened to you. In my ski patrolling days we worked on many concussion victims. It is easy to ignore this kind of injury and just keep going. It can be a fatal mistake. One case in point was a teenager who knocked himself out skiing and was advised by us to go to the hospital to get checked out. His father, AN Md!, poo-pooed the injury, tough guy. They kept on skiing. The kid did not wake up the next morning. Great that you took the time to write about this and call attention to a real danger about an injury that is very likely to occur on a sailboat. The boom, being thrown about in a rough sea, falling are all dangers of this kind.

Helmets are not a bad idea. They have become almost standard equipment elsewhere but have yet to enter the sailing scene except for some extreme fringes.
 

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Very sorry to hear that happened to you. In my ski patrolling days we worked on many concussion victims. It is easy to ignore this kind of injury and just keep going. It can be a fatal mistake. One case in point was a teenager who knocked himself out skiing and was advised by us to go to the hospital to get checked out. His father, AN Md!, poo-pooed the injury, tough guy. They kept on skiing. The kid did not wake up the next morning. Great that you took the time to write about this and call attention to a real danger about an injury that is very likely to occur on a sailboat. The boom, being thrown about in a rough sea, falling are all dangers of this kind.

Helmets are not a bad idea. They have become almost standard equipment elsewhere but have yet to enter the sailing scene except for some extreme fringes.
Yup.
I was skiing many years ago, and crashed hard after a bad landing while trying to get a bit of air. I didn't feel much, just a little funny and tried to ski it off. But for the next hour or so, I felt like every thing that was happening had already happened.... kinda like a deja vu that doesn't go away!

I try to wipe some fog or snow off my goggles and it's not clearing. So I take them off and low and behold, my goggles are virtually shattered and I can't seem to figure out how it happened. As I put them back on I finally feel the HUGE welt on the side of my head.
Called it a day...kinda felt I was tripping on acid the rest of the day.
 

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CD, I had noticed you hadn't been on the board and was hoping you were cruising. Sorry to hear about this.

I hope your symptoms completely resolve soon. I know that this sailor will be much more cognizant of the location of the boom at all times from now on.
 

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CD,

I, too, had noticed you hadn't posted in a while and silently wondered what had happened. I'm really sorry to hear of your accident and will send prayers and wishes your way for as speedy and comfortable recovery as possible. Thank you for making the effort to turn your misfortune into something the rest of us can learn from.

Best wishes,

Barry
 
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