Concussions ‘R’ me and it’s only fun when you aren’t falling down on the street

An open letter to anyone who doesn’t understand concussions:

Last week, I experienced sharp ringing in my right ear. It happens all the time, more often in my left ear.

I also had an episode of kaleidoscope vision, whereby a wave of multi-colored objects rendered me blind in my left eye for 15-20 minutes. It’s happened before, many times.

As I type this sentence, vision in my left eye is blurred and watery. When you see two people, I sometimes see four.

Often when I’m lying on my loveseat watching TV or a movie, I get lightheaded and the room begins to spin.

I cannot stand up without supporting myself on a piece of furniture, for fear I’ll fall.

I very seldom open my blinds, even though I have an mountain view from my home. Too much light is uncomfortable. It’s the same reason I mostly walk in the shadows when outdoors, to avoid direct sunlight.

Most times when the phone rings, I don’t pick up. Too much of a challenge to talk to people. Even friends.

When I’m on a sidewalk, I often list badly to the left, sometimes coming dangerously close to stumbling onto the street and into traffic. Accidentally bumping into another pedestrian due to a sudden bout of imbalance is not uncommon. I walked into a wall at home last week.

I cannot take one step walking heel-to-toe without falling.

Ice pick headaches are a painful reminder that not all is right above the shoulders and between the ears.

So is my short-term memory, which basically doesn’t exist. When I was at the grocery store last week, I forgot why I was there. I had to fight off tears because, as I stood in an aisle looking in all directions but recognizing nothing, I was overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and fear.

I never leave home without anxiety as a companion. The moment I towel off after a shower, it consumes me.

Results from my most-recent CT scan and MRI indicate significant softening of brain tissue.

Right now, I feel as if I’m about to fall off my chair. My head is swimming.

I’ll be stepping out of doors later today to visit one of my doctors, and I only hope I get from Point A to Point B without a wave of lightheadedness sending me to the ground. I’ve been fortunate lately. I haven’t taken a nasty tumble on the street since September 2016, when I hit the deck while walking downtown with my daughter Ashley. It was embarrassing as hell, but we both giggled once it was determined that only my pride had been wounded. Mind you, I’m guessing that some onlookers thought the sight of an old lady performing a faceplant to be quite comical, if they were into Three Stooges type of humor.

This is how I live. Every day. It’s what multiple concussions (10 of them) can do to you.

So if you know, or hear of, someone who has suffered blunt force trauma to the head, don’t presume to know the darkness we live in. You don’t have the right to tell us how we should conduct our daily lives. How we should interact with others. When we should pick up the phone and how quickly we should respond to email and text messages. Or how often we should smile and how loudly we should laugh.

If you see me, chances are I’ll be smiling and laughing. It’s what I do. But you won’t know what’s going on below the surface.

You just don’t know.


What the hell is wrong with Steve Simmons?

Either Postmedia needs to get Steve Simmons some help, or they need to get rid of him. Immediately.

I mean, only someone struggling with serious inner demons would be so callous and cruel as to recklessly attack a man whose hockey career ended abruptly at age 33 due to blunt force trauma to the head. A man whose many years of post-concussion symptoms included headaches, memory loss, sight impairment, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness and exhaustion. A man who was required to live what he calls a “reverse lifestyle,” sleeping during the day and awakening in the small hours of the night to watch TV alone. A man who was diagnosed by one psychologist as suicidal.

That man is Marc Savard, last seen in the National Hockey League on the night of Jan. 22, 2011, concussed for a sixth time and being gently escorted from the ice surface by teammates after Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche had layered him into the corner boards with a clean hit.

Only in the last year has Savard begun to see the light again. Literally and figuratively.

Yet, his descent down the deep, lonely, seemingly bottomless rabbit hole didn’t prevent Simmons from making the former Boston Bruins forward the target of a vicious, repugnant attack in a Sunday column that appeared in Postmedia online newspapers nationwide.

“Marc Savard basically disappeared when his career ended in Boston,” Simmons wrote. “Media called. Nobody answered. Now suddenly Savard is a media guy. My advice: If he calls, don’t answer.”

Marc Savard

Imagine being so bitter and vindictive simply because someone living on the dark side of life failed to pick up the phone when you called. But, then, drive-by shootings have become Simmons’s sick shtick. I might suggest that it must be bloody awful going through life spewing such undisguised loathing, but it strikes me that it’s his perverted pleasure, something only a woman or man with a PhD in psychology or psychiatry can correct.

He’s also a hypocrite.

In January of this year, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, this is what Simmons tweeted: “Everyone I know has been faced with a problem. His problem. Her problem. A friend. A relative. A colleague. No reason to hide anymore #BellLetsTalk please RT this and keep RTing all day long.”

We now know that sentiment to be as sincere as a politician’s election promise, because here he is skewering a man who was laid low with mental health issues for close to seven years.

I’m uncertain if Simmons has suffered blunt force trauma to the head (it’s a safe bet that he’s been dropped on his head, many times), but I know concussions. I’ve suffered 10 of them. I can relate to every symptom with which Savard has dealt. But I’ll allow him to tell you about it.

“I had these terrible headaches, and any loud noise or bright light was…I mean, it’s almost indescribable,” Savard wrote in a revealing article for The Players’ Tribune in May last year. “If you’ve never had a concussion, I don’t know if words can do the feeling justice. Every little noise is like nails on a chalkboard, and you feel this dread so deep down inside your body.

“So I pretty much lived a reverse lifestyle. I was in bed all day with the blinds closed, in total darkness, in total silence. Then I would get up at 11 p.m. and watch TV on mute, with the brightness turned way down. If somebody called to check on me, I didn’t want to talk. I can’t really explain it, but everything seemed so…what’s the word?

“I guess the word is daunting. Just the thought of talking to a friend on the phone seemed like a huge mental and almost physical effort. I was so irritable because of my symptoms that it was hard to be around people—even the people I loved.”

In a November 2016 interview with the Boston Globe, Savard had said much the same: “There was a couple of years there where I kind of went off the radar, but it was only because I wanted to get my health back and get everything straightened out.”

Yet Simmons’s massive ego is bruised because Savard doesn’t have him on speed dial. Boo freaking hoo.

Simmons is a disgrace and should be an embarrassment to Postmedia and TSN. He glorifies a convicted woman-beater—former boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.—and he eagerly advocates the signing of a confessed woman-beater—Johnny Manziel—to a Canadian Football League contract, yet he discredits Canada’s medal-winning Olympic curlers and figure skaters in the most-dismissive and derisive of terms. And now this, bullying a man once laid low by mental health challenges who’s finally finding his way back and doing the odd gig on Sportsnet.

Simmons often crosses the line of fair comment, but the Savard attack is so far out of bounds, so repulsive and gasp-inducing that it suggests he needs to be saved from himself.

If so, get him the help he requires. If not, how in hell does he keep his job?