Wednesday 23 August 2017

Post Concussion Syndrome update

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted in terms of my Post Concussion Syndrome recovery and life in general.

I have made really great progress with regard to my recovery. When at home my symptoms are somewhat minimised with the biggest issues still being fatigue and headaches.

The symptoms are tripped when I am out of the house. I still can't go into a store without instantly experiencing nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound and being unbalanced when I walk.

Cognitively, I am able to articulate my thoughts without forgetting what I am saying and my thinking is a lot clearer but I still find it difficult to concentrate and my short term memory is still impaired. I can read using my phone or IPad but find screens bigger than those a problem and still find it difficult to read magazines, books, recipe books, instructions and newspapers.

My lack of concentration means I only hear half a story and the short term memory means I forget what I have been told and ask for the same information over and over or repeat myself. It must be so annoying for other people!

I thought I had adapted to reading information by locating key words in the text, which is such a teacher-y thing to say. However, this strategy is not fool proof,

my online shopping deliveries are a testimony to this:
  • Tea towels that arrived dishcloth size.
  • Jumbo marshmallows which were a jumbo bag, not the giant ones I wanted.
  • An oversized mixing bowl which is a giant sized bowl, so big it doesn't fit in a cupboard.
  • Random food items in the grocery order that I didn't mean to order.
Oversized bowl and undersized tea towel
The treatment I am still having is:
  • Occupational Therapy - involves walks, shopping, cafes in order to overcome sensory issues.
  • Neuro Physiotherapy - involves walks, ocular-motor exercises, pilates, water resistance exercises in order to overcome visual/brain issues and balance.
  • Psychologist - a weekly session to deal with the emotional impact of Post Concussion Syndrome.
  • Acupuncture - to manage fatigue, nausea, and headaches.

The medication I still take is:
  • Codeine - headaches  
  • Ondansetron - nausea
  • Melatonin - sleep/headaches
  • Amitriptyline - sleep/headaches
  • Escitalopram - emotional - this is not new medication
  • Neurofen - headaches 

I am really hoping I can start back at school part-time before this term ends. I also want to drive my car, read a book, drink wine, visit my parents in Rawene, my brother in Cairns and my bestie, Mary Thistle on her farm in the Waikato.

I'm grateful for being able to complete a painting (almost).

Frida Kahlo inspired painting
Thanks for reading,

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Post Concussion Syndrome Therapy

I have to use this 4 x per day, 5 mins a time, keeping my BPM around 90
2 different sets  of ocular exercise 4 x per day 
more ocular exercises 4 x per day
Having Post Concussion Syndrome has given me a newly found appreciation of the health care system in our country and how lucky we are to access it.

My therapy is funded by ACC and managed by a personal Case Manager. My Case Manager is incredible, she has a great understanding of concussion and the recovery process. She makes sure the process is as stress-free as possible for me (stress hinders concussion recovery) and is genuinely interested in how I am.

My therapy is managed by the ABI Rehabilitation Clinic. My Occupational Therapist liaises with my ACC Case Manager, my GP, and my school while working with me.

Here is a list of the professionals involved in my therapy/rehabilitation:
  • ACC Case Manager - approves funding for therapy, services, equipment, and income.
  • Occupational Therapist  - fatigue, activity planning, vocational
  • Neuro Physiotherapist - dizziness, balance, oculomotor
  • Psychologist - emotional
  • General Practitioner - overall health, medication
  • Medical Specialist - diagnosis, medication
  • Muscular Physiotherapist - neck pain/stiffness, headaches
  • Acupuncturist  - dizziness, nausea, fatigue neck pain/stiffness, headaches

Until very recently, each week I had the following:
  • Two physio sessions 
  • Two acupuncture sessions
  • One Occupational Therapist session
  • One neuro physio session
  • One psychology session
and sometimes a doctor visit.  I am very lucky as the OT and Neuro Physio visit me at home. I finished physio last week but the rest are ongoing at the moment.

In addition, ACC also provides me with:
  • Taxi Service
  • Home help
ACC have also provided equipment to help with therapy/rehabilitation:
  • Exercycle
  • Laptop Stand
  • Key Board and Mouse
Since the accident I have taken the following medication:
  • Tramadol - whiplash/headaches - no longer take.
  • Codeine - whiplash/headaches  
  • Norflex - muscle relaxant - no longer take.
  • Ondansetron - nausea
  • Melatonin - sleep/headaches
  • Amitriptyline - sleep/headaches
  • Escitalopram - emotional - this is not new medication
  • Neurofen - headaches 
You can see how comprehensive it all is and how very consuming!

We really are so lucky in our beautiful country to have access to such comprehensive health care services.

I am grateful for the therapists involved in my rehabilitation.

Thanks for reading.
Rachael xo

PS. sorry about the awkward photos - it became too hard to crop and shop them to look pretty!

Monday 19 June 2017

The face of Concussion

The face of concussion
from Mary Thistle
from Shana
from Marty and Ana

Since I'm sitting here with a wheat bag on my neck and shoulders (actually that was now 3 weeks ago!) I thought it would be a good time to talk about the symptoms I have from Post Concussion Syndrome.

The following  are the symptoms I suffer from:
  • Headaches-daily, always a band around my head that gets very tight if I have to concentrate on something. I also get sharp stabbing pains and cold chills in my head. These are called ice pick headaches.
  • Fatigue- my energy levels are very low and a simple task such as making a couple of coffee exhausts me.
  • Nausea-at first this was constant however now only if I'm in a car, very tired, moving my head if looking at a screen and some of my therapy exercises - ha!
  • Balance-my balance is off, especially if I get up too quickly or turn too quickly, then I will overbalance and lurch when I start walking.
  • Dizziness-this is connected to my balance and focus, the room spins, slowly but it is really debilitating and often adds to the nausea. It seems like my world is always moving, literally.
  • Light sensitivity-my eyes are very sensitive to direct sunlight, car lights, and artificial lighting such as in shops. When I'm outside I wear a big straw hat or cap and sunglasses. I wear sunglasses in my therapists' offices and the few cafes and shops I go to.
  • Sound sensitivity- certain noise sounds like its drilling into my skull such as birds chirping, electric power tools, some voices and laughs. I have earplugs that I can use to filter out the noise. 
  • Sleep - despite the fatigue I suffer from insomnia and very vivid, exhausting dreams. I have medication for this.
  • Disconnection-when I'm out in the shopping centre or cafe I have a disconnect with what is around me, it feels like there is a thin glass sheet that separates me from the rest of the world.
  • Sensory overload-I can't go into a shop and look for particular items on shelves because I can't filter out what I don't want to see or need to see. The overload makes me feel very dizzy and nauseous
  • Memory and concentration-I have problems with my short term memory and concentrating on conversations and simple tasks if they are not for short periods of time.

I don't have all of these symptoms all the time, it very much depends on what I am doing.  For example, the headaches mostly depend on what I'm doing and how much I have to concentrate. The sound and light sensitivity is mostly when I'm outside of my home. If I don't move my balance is fine (obviously) and the room spinning is minimised.

You can see there are two sides or aspects of Post Concussion Syndrome, the physical and the cognitive.   Obviously, the physical symptoms make me feel unwell especially on days where they are intensified. The cognitive symptoms prevent me from functioning really well when trying to complete tasks and really impact on my ability to be a teacher at the moment.

I am lucky I have a team of therapists and support people who work with me  to manage these symptoms on a day to day basis as well as working on reducing them. In my next post, I'll talk about my therapy and what life looks like for me at the moment.

Hopefully, this post is helpful in understanding the complicated facets of Post Concussion Syndrome.

You can find more information here:

I am grateful for my Mum who was recently here for a week and cooked, cleaned, shopped, drove and kept me entertained. Love you, Mummy.

Thanks for reading,
Rachael xo

Thursday 1 June 2017

Upside Down

flowers from my school
sweet Get Well notes from my students
The Cheesecake Shop yummy treat from my Pip, my classroom neighbour
part of rehab is gentle soothing activities
these two are very happy with the current situation
On March 10, I had a car accident. A guy who was texting while driving in the middle of torrential rain, think Cyclone Danielle, ran into the back of me. It wasn't a big hit but it did move my car forward and my seat slid backwards and forwards on its runner. I was looking in the rear vision mirror, watching him approach, knowing he wasn’t watching. The Princess was sitting in the passenger seat, I flung my arm across her to protect her. The guy who hit us didn't get out of his car so I got out of mine and got his number plate while standing in torrential rain with cars everywhere. The Princess didn't want me to get out because she was worried about my road rage haha.

The lights changed to green and we carried on. In fact, I went through McDonald's drive-through getting the Princess dinner, picked up a bottle of red wine and Pad Thai for the Cowboy and I. Apart from a burning sensation on the right-hand side of my back I felt fine.

The next morning I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a truck, not a car. I felt so bad the Cowboy took me to a Doctor who diagnosed whiplash and concussion.

Since that day I have not been back to my job as a teacher.  I have a range of symptoms that are isolating and debilitating.

My life has been turned upside down, my days during the week revolve around different kinds of therapy.

One of my therapists suggested I start a gratitude journal as I quite often feel sorry for myself even though I try not to. I have a list of things I'm thankful for and lucky to have in my life such as the Cowboy who is looking after me exceptionally well, my beautiful Princess, my family and my friends.  I'm thankful for my school supporting and a health system rehabilitating me.

I thought I would use my blog as my gratitude journal and blog my rehabilitation journey. It might also be helpful for other people experiencing the same journey.

I make no apologies for the style of my writing, grammar and punctuation, anyone with this condition will understand how hard it can be to communicate.

Today I am especially grateful for technology that allows me to sit here and talk at the screen and let the iPad do the typing for me.

xo Rachael

Sunday 15 January 2017


The Princess does stuff. Everyday. At school. All she does is stuff. Since she was 5. Stuff. I used to threaten to call her school and tell them they needed to upgrade their curriculum.

Apparently, my own students tell their parents they do stuff. Everyday. In my classroom. Sometimes, mostly on a Friday, when updating our programme on the whiteboard, I write stuff. They love stuff'. Maybe I should look at my own curriculum!

This week I have been doing stuff.  Not much really because you know, I AM on holiday.  The stuff I have been doing is:

POTTERING with pots (see what I did there). I hauled the teenage Princess from her cave (bedroom) and went plant shopping. Hers, chosen and planted, are the purples and mine are the reds. Now if only the wind would die down so we could sit out there!

Plants are a good deal at Mitre 10

LUNCHING with the Cowboy who suggested a mid-week lunch date, nice! And the following day with a friend and work colleague here at my current favourite place to eat, because I'm all about the florals, not the food, even though the food is good.

Hello Friends and Allies
WATCHING this cute little series on Lightbox. The episodes don't hurt my brain, as in I don't have to concentrate too hard,  it does become a little predictable but the characters are pretty and I like the decor of Kate's house and Baze's bar apartment.

Life Unexpected

READING Jack Reacher. I love a good Reacher story even though I can't reconcile myself to Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher in the movies! This one is about the 3rd Reacher I have read these holidays.

COOKING platters for the Princess like the ones I used to make her when she was little with lots of fruit, cheeses, breads and other stuff. Does that count as cooking?

EATING Hubbards muesli, vanilla bean yoghurt and a banana chopped into it. Not exactly sugar-free but hey, at least I'm eating breakfast. Actually, it's usually brunch by the time I get around to it.

DRINKING way too much of this stuff and enjoying trying these tea flavours. My fave this week is Licorice Legs, the name alone gets me!

Nespresso Coffee

Dream Catchers T2

WEARING black on black...

HAIR DO of the week, braids, braids and more braids. It's hot, my hair annoys me, the braids get it off my face and neck and it's such a good look for a 50ish woman.

THINKING about school and all the stuff I need to get read to start the year off and trying not to feel stressed or depressed about how fast it is looming.

LOVING a clean house and up to date laundry; washed, dried, folded and put away and figuring out how to maintain the cleanliness and laundry when school starts.

NOT LOVING a ginger cat who wants to be picked up and cuddled every half hour, day and night and who is moulting badly. Not a good look with black on black. But he sure is cute and so is she!

I hope you have had a good week doing stuff.

Thanks for reading.

xo Rachael

Thursday 5 January 2017

New Year's Day Dessert

The Cowboy gave me the newest Chelsea Winter 'Scrumptious' cookbook for Christmas. Clever him. Double clever him as he benefits from me using of the cookbook!

Since we didn't have a proper dinner on New Year's Eve I thought I had better up my game on New Year's Day.

What better than a celebratory dessert such as Chelsea's take on good old fashioned...

Chocolate Chippie Pudding!

It was truly decadent. Laced with Sherry. Smothered in Cream. Covered in dark Chocolate. YUM.

You can get the recipe here.

Thanks for reading.

xo Rachael

Tuesday 3 January 2017

New Year Movie Marathon

We didn't go out on New Year's Eve, which is the first time ever for the Cowboy and me. It was also the first time in a very long time I didn't wake up on New Year's Day without some kind of hangover. It was good. Very good.

Instead, we stayed in with the Princess and ate crappy food such as good old Chips and Dip, Chocolate, Jaffas and Ice Cream with Jaffas and Chocolate. We drank Fizzy Drinks and watched Movies. Lots of Movies.

If you haven't seen The Shallows and like a movie that has you on the edge of your seat (think Jaws), then this is the movie for you. All I can say is thank goodness we didn't watch it in 3D - lets just say I screamed a few times and hid behind my pillow a few more times!
Sisters followed which provided the light-heated relief that was much needed on my part after The Shallows!. I really enjoy Tina Fey and the combination of her and Amy Poehler is hilarious. I may or may not have cried with laughter and I most certainly did not snort at any time. That would have been the Princess. Or the Cowboy.
I love a good fast paced, action packed Western style movie with lots of 'Shoot em Up' and humor which The Magnificent Seven certainly provided. It finished at 11.55pm, just in time to wish each other Happy New Year!
No bed for us though. We carried on with a movie recommended by the Princess. Nerve is about an online dare game with scary consequences. The story line was quite good with messages relative to today's teens.
The marathon continued on New Year's day with The Legend of Tarzan and Jane. It was an easy watching movie with enough action to add interest. Perfect for a lazy Sunday.
Our  marathon finished with The Hateful Eight. You need to be a die hard Quinton Tarantino fan (we are) to watch this, let alone enjoy it. The story is quite slow paced to start with. Tarantino sets the scene and acquaints you with the characters. The dialogue is typical Tarantino, lots of black humor. Just when I was lulled into a false sense of security, almost feeling bored, it opened up - literally! Lots of violence. Lots of gore. An interesting ending. Tarantino.
Right now, my little family are at the actual movies, watching the Assassin's Creed movie. I'm home alone. Love it!

Thanks for reading.

xo Rachael