Brandon | McKees Rocks, PA
On the Sunday before Christmas 2016, Brandon, 31, was playing dek hockey when he slipped, fell backward, and suffered severe whiplash, but never hit his head. The next day at his job as a middle school gym teacher, he was unable to read the computer, and he felt dizzy and nauseous. Thinking he may have the flu, Brandon went to see his primary care physician (PCP) who diagnosed him with vertigo and prescribed him medication for his dizziness.
Over Christmas break, Brandon powered through the dizziness and the intense headaches because the medication wasn’t helping. When he returned to work, he was still unable to concentrate when using the computer. Watching his students perform their gym activities also made him dizzy. He decided it was time to seek additional help. He went to a nearby hospital, where he underwent a CAT scan, an EKG, and various blood tests. The emergency room physician told him he may have a concussion and he should follow up with his PCP.
Brandon then took a week off from work and returned to his PCP, who had been treating him for more than a month, and was given the number for Micky Collins, PhD, clinical and executive director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Dr. Collins saw Brandon at the program’s Bethel Park office, where his concussion diagnosis was finally confirmed.
Dr. Collins had Brandon perform the ImPACT® test to establish a baseline for his symptoms. He was told to do vestibular and exertional therapy, including side to side head movements, moving his eyes back and forth, walking down the hall while spinning and walking backward – anything to recreate his symptoms and see how his body would recover.
To aid in his recovery, Brandon was also encouraged to go back to his day to day routine. He would meet up with friends and go out to eat. He would go to grocery stores since the back and forth eye movement used there would increase his symptoms, but ultimately help him heal. He pushed himself to recover, but this would result in migraines and then depression, due to still not feeling better.
“This is the worst injury I’ve ever had because it affected me both physically and psychologically,” says Brandon. “I was in a really dark place because I wanted to feel better right away, but it takes time and gets really frustrating.”
Brandon shared his feelings with Dr. Collins, who taught him some stress relief and meditation techniques.
“I don’t think I could’ve gotten over this without the help of my therapists and Dr. Collins,” says Brandon. “He’d talk to me and assure me others were going through the same thing. I felt so alone but Dr. Collins encouraged me. Every time I left his office, I felt better about myself.”
Brandon stayed dedicated to his therapy and worked hard to recover. After completing his fourth ImPACT® test, he was cleared of his concussion in March 2017.
“Looking back, I’m kind of glad I went through this,” remarks Brandon, who also coaches high school football. “Having a concussion has been an eye-opener for me. Now I can better understand and help my students who go through the same thing.
“Do what the doctors tell you – that’s the most important part. Stay positive. You will feel better,” concludes Brandon.
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