Photograph of President William Jefferson Clinton and Chelsea Clinton in the Study of the Chappaqua Residence in Chappaqua, New York, 11/07/2000 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)
What a difference a few days make. Do you ever have a few days that feel like a few years? Yes? That would be the week I am having. It has been very strange, even for me, that it is hard to not be a bit freaked out.
One day last week, I was on my way to meet someone for lunch in Georgetown. We hadn’t decided where we were going to eat but were going to meet up. I was walking down Wisconsin and my last cogent thought was “Do I want Thai or Italian?” The next thing I know, literally, I am entering a conversation with several paramedics about how they think I need to go to the hospital. No big deal right? Except, I had been actively participating in this conversation. I wanted no part of them or their ambulance, which is the saving grace of this experience because it tells me that I had not lost all of my spunk. The massive amount of blood I was losing from the top of my head convinced me they might have a point about me needing to go so I relented.
What happened? I had a grand mal seizure and managed to bang up my knee, chomp up my lip and cut myself square on the top of my head. The exact top. Moreover, one of the paramedics stayed with me in the hospital until the doctor came into see me and it was then that I learned he had been called in because I was being “uncooperative.” Yeah, that sounds like me. After seven hours in the George Washington University Hospital, all my tests came back normal and I was sent home with a diagnosis of “recurrent seizures” and the advice to see a neurologist.
How did I get here?
I blame Steve Young. You see, the NFL won’t have me, I am way too lazy to become a lawyer and as much as this makes me feel like a bad person, Mormons scare me. If I want to be like Steve Young, concussions are my only option so I have racked up at least 12. I am only counting times I have been hit on the head and knocked unconscious. How has a mild-mannered PR person gotten so many?
1. What happens in Iceland… When I was five I spent the summer with my mother on a sheep farm in Iceland. I think it was called Holar. A group of children and I were playing in a house that was being either built or renovated when a beam fell and hit my head. I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to, it was getting dark and my mom was pissed when I got home. Now, Iceland is known during the summer as “the land of the midnight sun” so if it was getting dark when I work up, I was out for a dang long time.
2. Attack of the killer shop projects. It was a long time before my next head injury. In the seventh grade I took wood shop. One afternoon we all stacked our projects on a shelf in the closest. By “stack,” I mean throw on top of the elevated shelf pile. As I was the last to do this, my project dislodged them and they all fell on my head. I could have moved out of the way but the collective weight of all of them hitting me must have been too much because my next memory is of my shop teacher laughing at me as he called the nurse’s office. This would not be my only shop injury. I also soldered my fingers together at least a few times.
3. & 4. Batter up! Gym class was never my favorite. One day during baseball, I was walking to get something when another student swung their bat and clocked me. No strikes but I was out. This would happen again a few years later.
5. Just take the 101… No youth spent in the San Francisco Bay Area would be complete without some driving mishap or another. When I was about 14 I was with a friend, he was driving, when the car in front of us stopped short. His breaks locked and into the vehicle we went. My head went into the passenger window. (I was wearing my seat belt, I hit the window sideways.)
6. She’s dead, Jim. I was in the back seat of a friend’s car and had fallen asleep. We had all been drinking (this was several years later) and my friends assumed I was dead rather than sleeping. In an effort to save my life, they tried to get me out of the car to perform CPR but when they pushed me out they did not coordinate efforts and ended up shutting the door on my head. Not dead but concussed.
7. Pizza movers. I delivered pizza in high school and college. On one perilous delivery, I left the road to drive on the sidewalk and was going a bit too fast for the staircase I was on. As I had only been going through Kelly quad at Stony Brook so I didn’t have my seat belt on. Anyway, I hit the brakes to avoid a pedestrian and my head hit my steering wheel.
8. & 9. Daddy dearest. If you ever wondered why I don’t like my father, it is because he is a violent sociopath. He tried to strange me twice in high school and once in college. Two of these times he gave me a concussion in the process. Thanks, dad.
10. Chappaqua motorcade. When I did advance for the Clinton White House, I often rode in motorcades in “camera one.” That’s the first of the press vehicles and is typically a minivan. On one trip to Chappaqua, NY, we prepared to leave the airport but were not yet loaded so I screamed for the driver to stop. He did and the middle door closed on my head. I landed in Mark Knoller’s lap. If you have ever met Mark, you know, he has the lap you want to land in. This is, by far, my favorite concussion story.
11. You have my bag! A few years ago I was mugged on Capitol Hill. A man I didn’t know appeared at the end of my street and I knew he wasn’t supposed to be there. If I had listened to that little voice we all have that alerts us to danger, I would have been in my building. I didn’t. He grabbed my bag, we fought over it, the strap broke and he got my bag. Joke’s on him, I took off after him and being in the best shape (I was training to climb Kilimanjaro at the time) of my life, I caught him. He hit me — probably with my own bag, I fell into the street and hit my head on the pavement. Woke up a bit later in the street.
12. Trippin’. Slipped on my hard wood stairs while wearing socks and hit my head. Not the most exciting way to round out my dozen concussions but there you have it.
That is by no means all the times I have been hit on the head. I have fainted at least twice from anemia and have had more bumps and bruises than I care to think about but I am only counting times when I was knocked officially out. I may have given myself concussion number 13 last week with the seizure, I mean I would be surprised if I did not.
Where do I go from here? Not really sure. If my doctors had their way I would never leave the house and if I did I would only do so when fully enclosed in bubble wrap. As it is, I have been warned against driving, biking, stairs, escalators, my bed, baths, climbing trees, swimming, boating, balconies, ladders, windows, hills, roller blading, and a host of other things you encounter on a daily basis. In my defense, I have told all my friends and coworkers about what has happened and asked that if this happens again, they call 911 and should not trust that I will go to the hospital on my own; I won’t. In fact, unless I am bleeding, bathing or falling out of a tree, I don’t think 911 needs to be called at all. We know what is wrong with me, let them use their resources saving someone else (seriously, this concludes our Alyson as a cooperative patient portion of this evening’s entertainment). I know my doctors mean well but while they are experts on bodies in general, I have gotten to know this one pretty well and it seems to be ok. It might not be ok tomorrow but right now, I feel pretty good.
So, I cannot promise what happened last week won’t happen again. I cannot promise that if it does I will not fight as hard as I can to not go to the hospital. All I can promise is to do the best I can to take care of myself to prevent it and to deal as best I can with it if it does.