My Left Foot
This will not be my typical post, as I feel compelled to share an experience with you that has been an issue for me for the past 8 weeks. I do this in the hope that I may help you avoid a similar experience.
On August 8th I went on an 18 mile bicycle trip (an easy flat one) with a group of Aspen friends. I rented a road bike to see how I liked it, as opposed to the hybrid bike I usually ride. Five minutes along the way I was going at a good speed, getting a feeling for the bike, when a quick curve loaded with gravel caused me to crash. Although I was wearing a helmet, it was jarred loose and I received a blow to the head that left me unconscious, lying in a pool of blood. I awakened in the Aspen emergency room to the news that, fortunately, I had no broken bones or brain damage but had suffered a concussion as well as contusions on the right side of my body where I landed. I was released that night and went home to dinner and bed.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks I felt some light-headiness and a bit of imbalance so I didn’t exercise, as friends said I should not . During that time I made two trips to the East Coast. No one told me I shouldn’t fly, although I waited for three weeks before I did this. Mid-September, back in Aspen, I still had a slight balance problem and the occasional light headache but assumed I was on the slow mend. One evening I was out with friends (fellow wine lovers with whom I have done three bicycling trips through the wine regions of France), and we very much enjoyed a lovely white burgundy with our dinner. As we left the restaurant I felt quite unsteady and detoured to the ladies room, where I stumbled and fell. I thought, “Whoa girl, you really overdid it tonight!” — yet I knew I had not. Over the course of the next week I noticed that I seemed to be shuffling like an old person. I also caught my left foot in the car door several times when getting into the driver’s seat. It began to occur to me that my left foot was not responding to my brain. I mentioned this to Rosa, my assistant, and she insisted I have an appointment with a neurologist when I returned to NYC the following week.
My visit with the doctor was straightforward: his assessment was that I was slowly recovering from the concussion, but because of my left foot issues he ordered an MRI of my head and neck which I had the next morning at 7:00 a.m. While waiting for the results, my neurologist phoned me and said, “I’m sending an ambulance to take you to Cornell Weil Medical Center and I’ve alerted a neurosurgeon who will perform emergency brain surgery. You have a large subdural hematoma that is pushing on the right side of your brain.” I was in such a state of shock, I had to call him back to repeat what he said. After hours in the ER and another CAT scan, I was wheeled off to surgery at 5:30pm.
The next three days were hellish. I learned that I could have had a very unhappy ending. The doctors could not believe that I could still walk and talk and function with such a large hematoma. My experience was a slow motion version of what happened very quickly and tragically in the case of actress Natasha Richardson, who suffered an epidural hematoma in a ski accident.
My point in telling this story is that I had no idea of the dangers of a head injury. The Colorado hospital neglected to warn me about the potential problems that could arise and I was discharged as if all was well. There was no recommendation for follow-up and no advice about activity, exercise, travel, or what to look out for. You might well ask why did not I not use common sense, but I grew up in the 1950’s when we were taught that if you fall off of your pony, you must get right back on. We played hard rough-and-tumble games and sports and were not aware of the potential problems. I have learned that in the last decade, what is called traumatic brain injury (TBI) is getting increased attention, including advocacy and legislation to increase awareness about and prevention of head injuries. Lesson learned, though the hard way. So please pay attention when you or someone you care about has something like this happen.
Another lesson was the importance of having an advocate with you in the hospital to find answers, get things done, and – especially – be aware of what’s going on when you may not be awake or able to think clearly. I was blessed to have Rosa at my side to pursue answers to questions (which always arose after the doctors had left) and help with my needs and concerns. While I have been lucky, it has been a very serious wake-up call for me. In the end I think I had lessons to learn. I know this sounds clichéd but it is the truth.
Next post will be back to design and beauty —— I felt I needed to put this out there to help others avoid what I just went through.
Me, pretty clueless as I wait for brain surgery— I am finalizing my fall tulip order for the Weatherstone garden.
I wake up with a hole in my head. I had pleaded with the neurosurgeon not to shave my head!!!! And, God bless him, he paid attention!
My first day back home. Friends were asking what happened and so I did this little rendering of my Halloween costume for October 31, 2014——just for a laugh. What else could I do? Happy Halloween.. cr
THANK YOU, THANK DEAR READERS!! Your concern and kind remarks are so appreciated by this lady with a hole in her head. I am touched deeply by your good wishes for a speedy recovery. God bless…… Carolyne