In early May 2019, I had an accident at the gym which left me with a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and post-concussion syndrome. I have now mostly recovered, however this will continue to affect me for a while.
The human brain is a weird and wonderful thing, but it is also surprisingly easy to injure. While mTBI is termed ‘mild’, all this really means is that my brain did not bleed or get hurt in a way which is easy to see on a CT scan, and I did not lose consciousness. The effects of mTBI and post-concussion syndrome are not mild.
The first six weeks following the injury were definitely the worst (I had only 2 weeks of sick leave - I have been working full-time since the 2 weeks immediately following the accident). However, if you know me and interact with me over the next few months, you may be a little disconcerted. You may notice:
I do not remember a conversation or email exchange we had between late April and the beginning of June. I have some amnesia caused by the accident. It is not personal - I submitted 2 job applications in May and I have no idea what was written in either of them!
I get tired very quickly when we talk about science. I will often set an alarm when we start talking that will go after 20 - 30 minutes. Please don’t be offended - I want to talk for longer but I cannot take in more information.
I may get tired quickly if we are walking, particularly through dappled light (e.g. under trees), or in a room with artificial lighting.
I need to make lots of notes (my memory is slowly coming back).
I do not speak as well as I used to - I need extensive notes and sometimes I may not remember words for an object, I may not be able to translate my thoughts into spoken language, or I may forget what I was saying halfway through a sentence. If I’m very tired, I may not be able to talk at all, or my speech may be a bit slurred. This is aphasia and is the result of my head injury.
I don’t ask anything of any of my friends or collaborators other than to respect when I need to take a break - I do not request any special accommodations and I can make modifications if I need them! Please just treat me the same, and feel free to suggest words to me if I look like I’ve forgotten a word!