Things to Avoid

Posted: February 17th, 2019 under Life beyond writing.

People who have already had three concussions should not get rear-ended at the end of a long day that also included dental excavations.  Not sure the dental stuff actually made the jarring of the rear-ending worse, but it *felt* like I’d not only had my brain shaken but been socked in the right cheekbone as well.  Useless as that is, I’m annoyed that my brain isn’t proof against all such blows and shakings.   I need it; it should just go right on zipping its little chemo-electric signals from neuron to neuron with undiminished speed and strength and accuracy.  And…because it’s not impervious to damage…it doesn’t.

Last Tuesday, I was stopped at an intersection and the car behind me ran into me.   It wasn’t a high-speed rear-ending and the car wasn’t totalled or anything.  I didn’t lose consciousness or break any bones or even get an outward scratch.  But I did get my brain shook, and as is typical with such injuries, when not too severe, I didn’t realize the size of the effect.   I was 27 miles from home, about…a little over a half hour drive, what with traffic lights, much of it in open country, and as once before I wanted badly to get home and in this case could remember the entire route…so I drove it.  Carefully, but (in hindsight) unwisely…by the time I got home, all I could think of was getting inside and flat on a bed.   When you’ve had a brain shake, you don’t (if you have a brain cell still functioning) take any NSAID pain medication for the headache…it risks making a tiny bleed worse, if the tiny bleed is the source of the headache.  Tuesday through Tuesday night was spent lying flat and wishing my head would quit hurting…dozing and waking, over and over.

Wednesday last week was a lost day.   I had intended to drive to the city to choir practice, and work on a Mozart mass with the choir.  Didn’t make it.  Knew I wouldn’t be safe to drive 50 miles in, on the Interstate, navigate rush hour afternoon traffic downtown, and drive back home after 9 pm.   (The restident retired doctor had something to say about that, too.)   I slept off and on most of the day.  Thursday was better, which is good, because I had a boatload of stuff that needed doing.  None of it involved driving, and I could rest between phone calls.  Friday also had an important business appointment I could not miss…but involved driving to the county seat and around town to do other errands than the main one.  That reactivated the headache; I came home and went to bed.  Slept between horse chores.  Saturday was mixed.   Felt pretty good early, but just driving to the local feed store (shavings, one sack of feed)  and the headache was back, though weaker.   I’m not in church singing Mozart, which bites, but I’m still not 100%.   And church is still a 50 mile drive away (and I don’t know the music well enough because I can’t learn the difficult stuff without actual rehearsals with the choir.  You Tube is not enough for me.)   Could be a lot worse.   I’m steady enough on my feet to muck out a horse stall, and hope later to do some ground work with the horse.   No driving today.

I have an online friend who endured two much harder rear-endings in close succession…full on concussion both times, and the two that close together gave her a much worse brain injury that affected her for years.   Mine was not as severe, and I think bothered me this much only because it was less than a year after the bucked-off-whacked-head-on-ground concussion last year.  But a definite reminder that getting your brain shook, with or without a direct blow, is never good for said brain, and you should avoid such things to the extent you can.  Wear the helmet if there’s a chance of it.  Know that the first thing a whack to the brain does is make the brain unable to recognize whether it’s functioning OK or not.  If you are conscious, it will be pushing its RESTART button over and over, and some things WILL work, and it will tell you everything’s fine now.  The brain thinks pushing the RESTART button makes everything perfect…but just as rebooting a computer can, at times, restore only part of its functionality and it needs rebooting again (and again) to bring up *all* the software with the current settings, the brain can reboot in segments, not as a fully functioning whole. (That’s my excuse for any remaining typos I didn’t see in this and correct already.)   I rehearsed the basic LOC protocol (are you oriented to person, place, calendar day, clock time?  Can you remember certain common facts and calculate some simple math?) and considered myself just fine, thanks.  That’s a good start, but it’s not everything.

So: take care of your brain.   You’ll want it, from time to time.  Can’t write without it.


  • Comment by Butterwaffle — February 17, 2019 @ 2:15 pm


    I am sorry to hear about your accident. There’s not much you can do to avoid other people’s mistakes… at least not all the time.

    As far as Mozart goes, I found I had the same problem with learning my part in my church’s choir (it is small… I am the only bass at the moment), so I took to typesetting my piece with Lilypond, which is free software that can output a playable MIDI file as well as PDF sheet music. By listening to my part alone via the MIDI, I am able to get what I need to learn it. And sometimes I typeset all 4 voices to make a piece that is hard to read more legible for everyone. Whether it is Lilypond or something else, I highly recommend using a computer to help learn parts.

  • Comment by Jonathen Schor — February 18, 2019 @ 7:00 am


    My goodness. We will have to wrap you up in bubblewrap. Should you get a cat scan? My own getting old scares me at times. Yours also scares me.

    Al I can really do is to offer my empathy.

    So far a Mozart, not being able to sing all I do is to listen. I have found that just about anything he composed still resonates after some hundreds of years.

    Stay warm ,

    Jonathan up here in snowing New Hampshire

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 18, 2019 @ 7:45 am


    I’d suffocate in bubble-wrap, but thanks for the protective thought. As to CAT scan…it’s pretty much healed on its own, and a trip to the hospital raises my blood pressure, which doesn’t need that. I’ll be OK until some day I’m not, and that’s true of everyone of any age. (She says, full of spit & vinegar this morning. Not snowing here, but “brisk” for us, which means in the 30s. Also cloudy again.

  • Comment by Richard Simpkin — February 18, 2019 @ 12:35 pm


    Don’t write your brain off yet, Elizabeth. “Dental excavations” sounds serious enough to account for most if not all the headache and stupor, especially with worry from the accident, and having to pass on pain medication. My own experience is that simple fillings can affect me for weeks afterwards when my dentist said days.

    Master Oakhallow will have words of wisdom and encouragement for his author should you need them. (I cannot quite make a direct quotation fit, so you’ll have to talk with him yourself)

  • Comment by Jazzlet — February 18, 2019 @ 7:14 pm


    Sorry your brain got shook up again, but glad that you are mostly better.

    My cousin gave us all a scare bashing her brain, she tripped into a chimneybreast, only fell a foot or so, but she completely scrambled her brain, she couldn’t talk at first, and didn’t understand what was being said to her. She did recover to a large extent, but not totally, she could no longer manage a breast cancer unit and became a nurse specialist instead. She was most frustrated when the doctors told her she was better “Just because I scored high on their tests doesn’t mean I am nearly as capable as I was”. She ended up retiring to be a gardener which she finds a lot more restful.

    I hope you are entirely better very soon and that your brain doesn’t get any more physical challenges.

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — February 20, 2019 @ 6:21 pm


    Brains, as you know, take a long time to heal, and the damage we do them is cumulative. While it obviously doesn’t help in all instances, please be careful.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — February 24, 2019 @ 11:23 am


    Yikes! Glad you are getting better.

  • Comment by Moira — February 24, 2019 @ 5:16 pm


    Ouch! I’m only seeing this now, but I’m with Jonathen; if not bubble wrap, can we at least go with good old-fashioned cotton wool?

    Please take good care of yourself, Elizabeth. And I’m glad you’re on the mend. (Again!)

    Jazzlet – I completely empathize with your cousin. Doctors all too often don’t remember that their scales and scores are actually pretty meaningless to an individual. In a better world, we’d all have baseline tests/measurements of everything done at various intervals throughout our lives, so that when crisis comes kicking in the door they actually have something meaningful to compare to. Wouldn’t that be something?

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 25, 2019 @ 7:32 am


    My new horse’s reaction to the restrictions necessary for recovery and my own are similar…one reason I like spirited horses, probably. She hates being kept in the stall, and only slightly less hates being kept in the barn and small barn lot. She doesn’t like having a boot on to protect her hoof, or having her hoof wrapped (though she’s patient about that last, mostly.) We’re both impatient to be *well*…and by well we both mean able to do what we did before, whether that’s a good idea or not. (Her “what I did before” includes galloping and bucking and rolling in mud…mine is more restrained…maybe. Certainly doesn’t involve rolling in mud.)

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 25, 2019 @ 7:35 am


    Jazzlet: Eeeep! So sorry your cousin had such a nasty accident. Definitely agree about doctors and their reliance on tests, and their tendency to assume women patients (in particular) should be/are satisfied with lower level competency than they had (or the test can measure.) Glad she’s enjoying gardening, though. As for my head, I hope it doesn’t get shaken up again any time soon, and I’m trying to be sensible and careful.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 25, 2019 @ 7:39 am


    Jim: It is frustrating that it’s only *after* a clonk on the head can most people see that what they were doing before the clonk wasn’t really being careful. I’m trying to be sensible, careful, alert…but assessment and calculation of risk in real-time, real-life, moment by moment…isn’t as accurate as one would wish.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 25, 2019 @ 7:39 am


    Thank you, Nadine.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 25, 2019 @ 7:45 am


    Moira:I’m working on the “taking good care” which involves mostly “get more sleep” and “don’t sing both Sunday services if you’re feeling wobbly.”

  • Comment by Moira — February 26, 2019 @ 1:14 pm


    Getting more sleep – good lord, yes! I have chronic sleep trouble, so my whole life is a constant refrain about getting more sleep…

    I’m also a big advocate of naps. (Not instead of a good night’s rest, but as a supplement.) Even half an hour can be hugely beneficial, if you can manage it.

    You can always sing around the house when you can’t make it into town – not the same, I know, but better than nothing. Have you sung to Kallie yet? I warble away to the dog all the time; granted, she sometimes looks at me like “Oh no, my mom’s embarrassing me again!” but really she doesn’t seem to mind too much. Sometimes she seems to actually enjoy it! And of course it doesn’t do me a bit of harm.

    Someone told me not so long ago to be kinder to myself; I think that was probably good advice. So I’ll be cheering you on in the “taking good care” department.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — March 6, 2019 @ 9:39 am


    Wow, I am sorry to hear about this. (I haven’t been coming by very frequently–plenty going on here).

    I do suspect more from the Vatta series about brain implant specifics will be forthcoming once the brain does get in to writing mode again.

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — March 10, 2019 @ 10:34 am


    I’m recovering from my first bout with shingles.

    It’s a bit off-topic, but if you had chickenpox as a kid, or you may have had it, or if you aren’t certain that you had it, get the Shingrix vaccine. It’s in short supply, and in some regions you’ll get wait-listed, but get on the list. I had been on my pharmacy’s wait-list for about 14 months when I contracted shingles. Ironically, three days later my pharmacy called to tell me my vaccine was in. But you can’t get Shingrix while you have active shingles (or for 2 weeks after).

    Shingles is grim. I had had the Zostavax vaccine, and my physician says it mitigates the shingles’ symptoms somewhat. But imagine a large second degree scald that also itches like the worst bug bites you’ve ever had. For two weeks or so. You don’t want to experience it.

    The Shingrix vaccine is no picnic, and you need two shots. But it is 90%-plus efficacious. You should get it.

  • Comment by Fred — May 1, 2019 @ 12:21 pm



    I do hope you are still recovering. The world is full of people wishing you well!

    Jim – you are right, everyone over 50 should bet the Shingrix vaccine. If you ever had chickenpox, the virus is in your system, biding its time for when your immune system is not at its peak. If you’ve never had chickenpox, it hasn’t been totally eradicated. For most people, Shingrix is no worse than any other shot – you had bad luck if it was “no picnic” for you.

    Anyone else – don’t be scared off from the vaccine! As Jim said, “You should get it” (if over 50)

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 8, 2019 @ 8:25 am


    Fred: Thanks for your good wishes.

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