When Mary Herrema left for work on a Monday morning in February, she had no idea she would be visiting the emergency room later that day.
“There must have been black ice because I did not see it,” Mary describes. “I don’t even remember slipping. I came down and I hit the back of my head first.”
She had fallen on a hill while walking into work; she knew immediately that something was wrong.
“I was dazed, it hurt so badly. I slid myself down to where I could feel that there was dry pavement,” Mary explains. “Then I got up and I was really dizzy and really sick to my stomach. I thought, ‘this is not good’.”
Thankfully, Mary never lost consciousness and was able to walk into work and ask her coworkers for help.
Once inside, Mary sat down as her coworkers contacted her husband and then took her to the hospital. There was no question in Mary’s mind that she needed medical care.
The doctors immediately took Mary to have a CT scan. She anticipated being diagnosed with a skull fracture, but was shocked to learn she suffered a subdural hematoma – bleeding on the top of her head between the two hemispheres of her brain. The staff monitored her for 24 hours until they could do another CT scan to make sure the bleeding stopped.
“It was all very frightening at times,” she said. “When they did the repeat CT the next morning there was no more bleeding and what had bled was starting to absorb. I thought well then I can go home, I’ll be fine!”
However, Mary needed to complete a post concussion screening.
“I had to answer questions, like what time it was and how to make a cube. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to make a cube! I got three questions wrong, so that indicated that there was some damage,” says Mary.
Her doctor referred Mary to the Post-Concussion Program at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I fell on a Monday, that following Tuesday I saw Dr. Kreitsch. I started physical therapy on Thursday,” Mary describes.
Mary’s transition into therapy was quick and seamless, an important aspect for someone who is facing the debilitating symptoms of a concussion and the vital need to treat the injury. Mary’s time at Mary Free Bed focused primarily on physical and occupational therapies.
“I was a little bit apprehensive, I didn’t know what was going to happen, but the physical therapy part was easy! They use a lot of safe guards and tell you exactly what to do,” says Mary.
In order to treat Mary’s dizziness, her physical therapists performed a technique called the Epley maneuver. After determining which side was being affected, her therapists used gravity and rapid movements to restore her equilibrium.
“Within a day or two it all cleared up,” Mary describes.
It was a relief to Mary that she wouldn’t have to live with the dizziness that plagued her for the short time between injury and rehabilitation. The Epley maneuver typically requires several treatments, but for Mary, it required only one.
“There was something they could do, not this is going to take a few weeks to go away. It was so helpful that they could treat the dizziness,” says Mary.
Before her injury, Mary thought of a concussion as a bad headache. She would read stories about someone sustaining a concussion and she never knew how complex the injury is or that it is, in fact, a brain injury.
“When I was sitting there, seeing all of these other people, some of those people had brain injuries just like me. They look perfectly normal. It makes you more aware, it makes me more aware,” Mary said.
Overall, Mary is grateful for her experience at Mary Free Bed. “I wouldn’t change a thing, it was positive,” she says.
She jokes that if she could do it over, she would walk a different path into work on that February morning. But, her participation in therapy was successful and now Mary is back to work.
“It was a very good experience, out of a terrible thing that happened it was a good experience,” shares Mary.
Melissa Meitz is a Marketing and External Relations Specialist at Mary Free Bed. Along with contributing to the Stories That Move You blog, she represents many of Mary Free Bed’s inpatient and outpatient programs.