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The Summer the Lights Went Out

August 17, 2012

This summer, I learned a lot about myself. I did not attend any professional development seminars. Nor did I go away to any far off places to reflect. I suffered a brain injury.

This summer was full of promise for me to do lots of fun and exciting things. I had two vacations booked. One was for my husband and I to go away to the Hidden Pond Resort in Maine for our anniversary. This would have been our first trip away together since our girls were born. Our second vacation was to be our first family vacation with our youngest child in tow – we planned a 10-day excursion down the California Coast. Yes, this summer was much-anticipated at our house.

But, this all changed on Wednesday, July 18 when I went in for a standard X-ray of my back to check out an old shoulder injury agitated by repeatedly picking up and holding my three-year old and one-year old girls. After the first X-ray, I felt faint and I actually ended up passing out and hitting the floor. I was knocked unconscious. When I came to, there were people standing all around. I tried to open my eyes, but I couldn’t see anyone. I felt intense pain in my head and I couldn’t move.  But, I heard lots of voices. I heard a doctor come into the room and ambulance attendants arrived to take me to the hospital. I became sick to my stomach and I heard the doctor say the words ‘severe concussion.’

I have never had a concussion before, but recently watched a documentary on NHL hockey superstar Sidney Crosby who has been struggling for a while now to get and stay back in the game due to his head injuries. So, I knew that my diagnosis was not good.

While at the hospital I had been hooked up to an IV and also oxygen to help me, but this meant I couldn’t get out of the bed myself and I could barely move. My feet felt so cold. The little things we take for granted. I couldn’t even put on my socks. I felt helpless. But, things were about to get worse before they got better.

I was released from the hospital with the doctor saying that it is fairly common for healthy people to faint when they have to strain their necks the way I needed to for the X-ray. I was told to stay in my darkened bedroom until the headache lifted. The next morning though I was lured to my computer. After sending the an email off, I knew that using the computer wasn’t good for me. My headache really kicked into gear. Shortly after that, my own doctor had heard what happened and called me at home to say I was not to use the TV, computer, Blackberry or read anything until my symptoms disappeared. This was quite ironic for me as usually I am the one challenging my clients to unplug themselves more often as a means of connecting with themselves and the people around them. For the most part throughout my career, I have prided myself on having good work-life balance. But, to go several weeks without being plugged in was quite difficult for me.

Being ‘unplugged’ was not the hardest part of the recovery. I was told that I needed absolute silence to heal my brain so my children needed to be sent away to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few weeks. Now ordinarily having some time to relax and unwind is wonderful. And any of you out there who are parents know how busy a job it is and having the chance to get a breather is nice. But, let me tell you that when your children are taken from you when you don’t want them to be (even if it is for your own good), it is an AWFUL feeling.

The doctor told me if you break a leg, you need to rest it and then slowly start to put weight on it by using crutches and then adding more and more weight. This is the same with a brain injury. So I spent 12 days in a dark room doing absolutely nothing. Just seeing my husband appear when it was time to bring my meals up to bed.

So what did I do? Well, I slept. And then I discovered this little exercise that didn’t seem to strain my brain and made me feel good. I simply watched the positive events of my life float in my mind like a movie. It was actually kind of neat. I remembered things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Special times as a child. Magical moments in high school. The wonderful feeling of independence when I moved away from home to start school and thinking of my friends there. Getting married. Giving birth to two perfect babies.  Moments of pride, love, good times, and joy emerged. What I did find quite interesting was there were very few work-related moments in my ‘Good times’ video reel. I was surprised by this as I am one of these people who has chosen a career that I absolutely LOVE. I have a business helping people be better in their careers and in their lives. It’s amazing for me that I get to make a living doing something that lights me up like that. But when I watched my great moments, it wasn’t about career awards and accolades, it was about the people in my life.

This exercise gave me some amazing life perspective and it was such a gift. I thought it’s too bad I had to end up in this situation to try this. I’d like you to try this out. Right now – take 30 seconds and think about the amazing moments in your life.

Now that you’ve done it, I hope you are feeling a sense of purpose that includes, but is way beyond, just your job. Because the reality is when we allow ourselves to take the time to nurture ourselves and really enjoy all areas of our lives, that is what makes us so much stronger in our careers.

After spending some time doing physiotherapy for my brain after the rest period, I am happy to say that I am now recovered and back to capacity. In fact I think my capacity to do my job and live my life has actually grown from this experience. I believe we  face situations in our lives (both good and bad) that teach us something and help further us along in our lives. I think this experience was one of those learning lessons for me. So I had to cancel my vacations and that was sad, no doubt about it.  But, I definitely gained some life experience in a completely different way than I had planned. Funny how life happens to us and can change our best made plans.

I would like to thank all of my family, friends, clients, my team and neighbours for their support and love during this time. I am so blessed.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Brenda C. Smith permalink
    August 28, 2012 2:25 pm

    Carrie: Thank you for sharing your story – and recovering – quite a shock; in your suggested exercise of reflection one of my favourite ones is the life long friends I have from teaching and engaging with them in high school- you were one of them who always showed energy, motivation, talent, and caring. All the best, Brenda

    • August 28, 2012 3:50 pm

      Hi Brenda.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. You definitely made an impact on me in my early years.

  2. Leslie permalink
    August 28, 2012 5:00 pm

    You are incredible – and it’s so wonderful to have you back and healthy! Thanks for sharing, and reminding us about how important the people in your life really are 🙂

  3. August 28, 2012 6:20 pm

    Hi Carey-Ann! As I read your newsletter and followed your invitation to read further, I was completely drawn in. Your courage and perseverance through recovery is inspiring, how you looked within and drew comfort from your life reel, is a wonderful reminder for all of us. Thank you for that. I hope we connect soon. Love, Lucy

    • August 29, 2012 4:07 pm

      Thanks Lucy for your comments. It has been an interesting summer…Health is one of those things we sometimes take for granted and when something goes wrong with it, we realize how vital it really is. Take care.

  4. Denise Roussel permalink
    September 6, 2012 10:16 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Carey-Ann. Your words have had a profound impact on me, and I really admire your strength and glorious attitute. I am so happy to hear that you have recovered. Two years ago my daughter, 4 years at the time, lost her leg in an accident. I took a year off work while she was in hospital to stay by her side. You have reminded me again it is truly family that matters the most in our lives and to always count our blessings. Thank you. Best wishes to you & your family, Denise

    • September 6, 2012 1:29 pm

      Denise, I still have tears in my eyes after hearing about your touching story. How tragic, but what a story about a Mom’s dedication to her daughter and the strength both you and your daughter must have from that experience. We really are all kindred spirits in this world…trying to help each other out. You are beautiful!

  5. Kristi D permalink
    September 13, 2012 10:59 am

    Wow! You poor thing! Thanks for sharing. I hope you’re feeling better now. How scary! x

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