Help me turn adversity into positive change

Some of you may be aware that on April 15 of this year, I had a fall while exercising that resulted in a concussion – my first (and hopefully last) concussion. As the mother of a teenager who has played high-impact sports basically since he could walk, I’ve been hearing about the dangers of concussions for years, but had no idea how debilitating, how deflating, how difficult to overcome a concussion can really be, not until I actually experienced one myself.  I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot about concussions over the past two+ months. It’s changed my life.

A concussion is “a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull,” according Wikipedia. Sounds pretty serious, which I learned it is. So how does your brain heal? In my case, the answer was simple – primarily by not using it. Imagine that – not using your brain. What can you do that doesn’t use your brain?

Let’s start with the obvious “no-nos.” Screens are completely out – which means no (ok, less) work, TV, PDAs, tablets. No reading. No exercise – even regulation of your heart rate uses your brain, which leads to – BINGO – symptoms.  I was surprised that even sleeping uses your brain, but that was one of the few things I was actually allowed/encouraged to do. The fact is that when I was recovering from my concussion, not only did I feel awful, but I couldn’t do anything I normally would do to feel better. This for me was adversity at its worst – a problem without any action I could take that would lead to a solution. All I could really do was nothing … wait, sleep, heal.  How can you possibly rise above this kind of immovable, unactionable adversity? I was stumped and profoundly … sad, yeah, I guess “sad” is the best word I can think of to describe how it felt, how I felt.

So I cheated … a little … I used my brain and I came up with an action plan to rise above the adversity – in fact to use it to create positive change. It was an action plan for someone not allowed to take action, at least not during the early stages of my recovery, but at least it was an action plan. And – I am very pleased to say that NOW, after two months of weekly physical therapy appointments and LOTS of waiting, I am slowly easing back into life as I knew it – working, running, practicing yoga, being me. Do I still have concussion symptoms – headaches, sensitivity to light and noise, dizziness? Yes – all of the above. But I am getting better every day and am working really hard to manage the symptoms.

Back to my action plan – an informal survey of my son’s friends as I drove them from here to there or they were hanging out at our house indicated nearly every one of them has had at least one (many have had multiple) concussions, and they are barely teenagers. I tried to imagine a kid dealing with what I have dealt with – managing school, friends, activities, grades – being a kid. From that, I became inspired to turn my adversity, my new-found sensitivity to the hell a concussion can be, into change.

As I said earlier, my son is an athlete – football is his favorite sport but he also plays lacrosse. He’ll be attending Fairfax High School in the fall and is looking forward to playing on their freshman football team. When I attended the parent’s orientation with the head football coach, I liked most all I heard –

Their team mission statement: Understanding the family (team) can only progress with the presence of love and respect.  We will commit ourselves to reaching our full potential. We know that every action must be with the team in mind, and unwavering loyalty to the team must be built in, especially during the tough times. There will be an absence of special privileges for any individual. We know that we, “will get as our works deserve.” We will strive to be Gentlemen, Scholars and then, Athletes

So what’s not to like about that? It was exactly what I wanted to hear from my son’s future football coach.

My concern was with what came next – safety. Already, nearly 65% of their budget is used on helmets, shoulder pads and helping their athletic training staff with materials to better serve their athletes. The head coach was also one of the lead coaches that helped develop the new Heads Up tackling curriculum for all youth and high school sports in Fairfax County.  Even with that kind of commitment to safety, lack of resources keeps them from having the equipment those kids should have when they step on the field.

Bottom line – they need new helmets. The right helmets, as well as proper technique, can make all the difference in the world with regard to reducing the incidence of concussions.

At Fairfax High School, many of the helmets the kids are wearing are more than a decade old – safe by basic standards, but is that what you would want your child to wear? Not me, not now that I know what I know about concussions.

The coach has tried to replace a handful of helmets each year. His goal this year is to replace 20-25 helmets at a cost of as much as $250 per helmet.  So, even with my concussion recovery in process, I can still do basic math and that adds up to a $5,000 hole that needs to be filled. My action plan to turn my adversity into change is to raise that $5,000 so the coach can buy the 25 helmets he needs for his team.

Many of you may have kids who participate in sports you already support or have kids who even attend other high schools that have their own needs, and I understand that. As a freshman player, my son may not even get to wear one of the new helmets. As much as I want him to have one, this is about something bigger for me.

As I was in the depths of my concussion recovery, wondering who I was and if I was ever going to be me again (yes – depression is one of the symptoms of concussions – great, right?), the idea of turning my adversity into something positive, of creating positive change from this awful experience, kept me going.

So with that, my request of you is to help me show that through adversity can come greatness, can come positive change. I’m asking you to sponsor a helmet, helmets, or part of a helmet. Help protect a kid you may not even know from suffering from a concussion by helping to ensure he has the equipment he needs and help me make my action plan a reality. I often wondered why this happened to me – seriously – what 42-year-old woman falls on her head practicing hot yoga??? As I’ve wondered, it occurred to me that maybe this is it – helping even one kid walk out on the football field a little better protected from having a concussion is something, something I am asking you to help me do.

Please consider joining me. It will not only mean a lot to me, but more importantly, it will mean a lot to the kid who may not experience a concussion because he has the proper equipment – all because I fell on my head in yoga practice two months ago, and here we are, with you agreeing to help.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for your support!

** To make a contribution, checks can be made payable to “Fairfax High School – Football” and can be sent to my attention at: Access Point Public Affairs, LLC, 13028 Dunhill Drive, Suite 100, Fairfax, VA 22030. Sponsorships are available for companies so let me know if that is of interest. All contributions are completely tax deductible.