The summer of 2014 was a season that changed my life forever. It started off as a great, fun time that was full of friends, family and lots of football. About three quarters of the way through the summer, the football program hosts an annual scrimmage where we invite two other teams to our school and we scrimmage them. That year, I was on the Freshman football team and the day of the scrimmage, we were going up against Holland Christian and Mona Shores.
It started off as a normal day of football. My parents took me to the school about 15 minutes before we were all supposed to meet up as a team to get ready to face off against the two teams coming to our house. We first scrimmaged Holland Christian, who was a pretty good team, and we did a really good job against them. It was a hard-fought battle, but in the end, we came out victorious. After HC, we had a half hour break while HC and Mona Shores faced off. We were preparing to go against a team that was a lot bigger than us, and had a lot more players than we did. Little did I know, when we played against Mona Shores, my life was about to be very different.
Crack! The sound of the helmets colliding was deafening. It was a run play up the middle of the line of scrimmage. I had the ball and broke out into the open. From there, it was just me, and one other kid from Mona. Only one of us was going to be standing in a matter of seconds. We were both running full speed straight at one another and our heads were the very first thing to collide. That impact sent me flying backwards into the air, causing my brain to bounce off my skull, and sending me crashing to the ground, out of consciousness. Our athletic trainer said it was by far the hardest hit she had ever seen and it was the same for many other people who witnessed the collision. When I came to, I thought that I was fine, and ready to play again. But, in reality, I was nowhere near fine. I was seeing stars, and everything looked much, much brighter to me. On top of those internal symptoms, I was stumbling across the field trying to regain my balance and just “walk it off” which is seemingly normal for many minor injuries (a minor injury is all I thought it was but, I was very wrong). I went in for one more play not knowing where I was or what was even going on at that point. After that play, I went off to the side, where my parents and one of my coaches were, who brought the trainer to me. She examined me, and was asking me questions like, “Are you seeing stars? How does your head feel? Does it hurt to turn your head?” After asking questions like these to gather information on my condition, she said that I had a concussion and possible broken neck. We were immediately sent to the hospital from there.
I vaguely remember the events of that day and many of the events of that summer. I have some recollection of the long, excruciating drive to the hospital, and being in the hospital for hours, in a neck brace, waiting for my test results to come back. When they did eventually come back, the doctor said I had a severe concussion along with a sprained neck. The doctor was informing my parents on how to handle these injuries on the road to recovery while I was unable to focus due to the unbearable pain and the medication I was on. Soon after, I was discharged and we were able to go home. The hospital provided a neck brace and told me to wear it as much as possible to limit the mobility of my head.
I have seen plenty of my friends get concussions before. All of them had a recovery time of maybe a month at the most. I thought that mine was going to be just like the many I have seen before. I thought it would be just a few weeks, and then right back to normal. I was very wrong.
My recovery was a long and difficult one full of dozens of doctors appointments as well as physical and mental therapy. It would take almost year to fully recover from the trauma. My parents were told to make sure that I get tons of sleep, avoid reading as well as watching TV or any type of brain stimulation, and always wear sunglasses when I went outside to lessen the effect the sun would have on me. Adapting to this temporary way of life was difficult and often frustrating.
High School is supposed to be exciting for all of the incoming freshmen. For me, on the other hand, it was far from it. My first day of high school was terrifying. The lights in the school were too bright for my eyes to handle and I had no idea if I would be able to remember anything. Every class I had was a struggle for the whole year. It was always difficult to remember what I was being taught and it was very frustrating to me because I never struggled like this in school. I always got good grades and was always able to focus and do good on tests. After this injury, all of that changed.
Once a week, for months, I would leave school and head straight to rehab. Sometimes it would be for my body, to help with my neck movements and regain strength; the other times, it was mental. Physically, I was able to recover much faster than mentally.