We are thrilled to present this article written by Belle Kim outlining some of the work our club has been doing in to provide concussion support at McGill! Check out the original article here, or scroll down to read it!
Belle Kim for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): What is SLICE?
Abbie McLellan (AM): SLICE stands for Sports Legacy Institute Community Educators. Our parent organization is Sports Legacy Institute, which focuses on concussion education, policy and research. We are Community Educators, meaning our members will be trained in the official SLICE presentation, and present what they learn to middle schools and high schools. The goal is to educate our community, including the McGill student body, teachers, coaches, and parents about what a concussion is, why concussions are worth caring about, and what can be done if someone gets a concussion.
HC McGill: Why the focus on sports?
AM: Sports have caused concussions to come into the spotlight in recent years, making it an ideal topic to get the word out, especially to young people. Also, sports injuries tend to be under-reported because athletes have grown up in the culture of sucking it up for the team. If we can use the topic of sports to educate young people about concussions, hopefully what they learn will stick with them and help them in future situations.
HC McGill: Who is SLICE geared towards?
AM: SLICE is geared towards university students interested in educating younger students about concussions. Special interest may stem from students in fields such as, but in no way limited to, kinesiology, neuroscience, anatomy, and physical education. A student who has already received a concussion may also be interested in sharing their story. In addition, our club provides support to students who are dealing with concussions.
HC McGill: How did you get involved? Have you had any personal experience with concussion? How did you deal with it then?
AM: I got involved with the program after getting a concussion on April 5, 2013 while playing basketball at Rez Warz. Now, almost 19 months later, I am still dealing with symptoms from that concussion. This post-concussion syndrome probably occurred because I didn’t handle my concussion properly. I studied for four exams right after getting hit, not realizing that someone with a concussion needs mental rest as well as physical. I realize now that I was totally unprepared to handle my treatment, and saw that other people who had concussions were in similar positions. The thing about concussions is that recovery is totally dependent on proper treatment, but once you get a concussion, your ability to make smart decisions is impaired. As a result of not treating my concussion properly, I canceled all my plans for that summer, and only took one course when I came back to McGill. My life has been profoundly impacted. Some of those impacts have been good, for example, I got back into art and learned to play the guitar. In that sense, I dealt with the aftermath of my concussion very optimistically. After my experience, I saw it as essential to better educate my community so that next time someone gets a concussion, they will know that it is a serious injury, and will have the tools to treat it. At the time of my concussion, McGill didn’t have any student support group, so I decided to bring the SLICE initiative to our campus.
HC McGill: You must already have a lot of students interested in joining SLICE. How can one get involved?
AM: You can check out the website to learn how to get involved. Right now, the two main options we offer are to become an educator, or join our support group. The great thing about becoming an educator is that even if you just do the training, the topics covered in the training are essential for all people to know. The support group is open to people with concussions, but also friends and family members of people with a concussion, in order to better support them in their life.The club is also working on a coalition between different medical experts in the field of head trauma. This will help make sure research doesn’t overlap, but also help treatment become more interconnected. Students who are interested in the research side of concussions can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
HC McGill: I know that the club just begun this semester. It must be an exciting time for you. Can you tell me what the club's hopes and goals are for the future?
AM: I think the biggest goal for us is that if a student gets a concussion on campus, they will know the steps to take: registering with MyAccess, talking to their advisor, getting accommodations, and finally resting. Or, if they don’t know what to do, they will know that we are here to help and answer all their questions. It is very difficult for students to stop studying during the school year, but sometimes rest is the most important thing. If our club can be the one to encourage and support students in the decision to rest, then we have succeeded in tackling the concussion crisis.
HC McGill: Are there any events coming up that you would like the readers to know about?
AM: We are very aware that McGill students are hitting the books for finals! Thats why we have decided to kick off our first big training session of the school year in early January. Coming to training is a great way to educate yourself, whether or not you plan on giving presentations in the future.
Check out the McGill SLICE Faceook page or their website for more information and to share your concussion stories, among other's shared on the website.
You are constantly dying. Your cells are, anyways, and they're what make you, you. Right? But if you are constantly physically changing, how are you still, mostly you?
Just after the first day of university, before the novelty of higher-level education and meeting strangers from across the globe had even worn off, I needed to go shopping for dorm supplies and groceries. I borrowed a bike, but not a helmet. This was when I made my first mistake.
On my way home, I was hit by a car. What happened afterwards was a blur, at best. Dizzy and disoriented, I trudged up the hill with my bicycle and bruised groceries beside me. Because I'd had multiple concussions before, this ostensibly resembled one of the minor ones and I thought I would be okay. Mistake #2.
I continued to go to class, listen to music, go to the gym, and even train at ultimate frisbee practices. Mistake #3.
A week after the incident, my hands starting shaking uncontrollably, my head pulsed with my racing heart, my nausea manifested itself into vomit, my legs were numb, and I felt as if I had ridden a rollercoaster for six hours straight. Something was seriously wrong.
After visiting multiple doctors who determined that I was indeed suffering from a concussion, I was ordered to bed rest. "Vegetation" was the exact word Dr. Sung had used. For three weeks, I was confined to the darkness of my room. This darkness began to seep into my mind as well, and the lack of human contact, music, and entertainment took its toll on my emotional well-being.
What many people don't realize about concussions is that they consume your life. They swallow up what defines you and disintegrate who you are. It feels as if your life has been set aflame, not only because of the physical pain the fire causes, but also because of how it spreads throughout your life. And even when you try to fix yourself, progress is as slow, excruciating, and frustrating as a lone firefighter's battle with a raging wildfire. A concussion can destroy your happiness, your self-confidence, and your hopes and dreams, as quickly and easily as a match is lit.
Since my concussion 4 months ago, I've struggled with simple math, perpetual headaches, and being able to remember details, everything from enzymes involved in DNA replication to people's names (and I used to be superb with names). I can't think or focus, I can't exercise or do any of the things I'm good at or enjoy, I'm nauseous more often than not, and I'm dizzy always. I sleep for twelve hours each day but am still exhausted. Mostly, I feel like I'm a different person than who I was before, and I wake up each day hoping, wanting, wishing, that I would just feel normal again.
I graduated high school counting my many, many blessings. I was athletic, playing at provincial and national levels, I was intelligent and diligent, I was ambitious and motivated to achieve my lofty dreams, I was making a difference in my community, and I was surrounded with friends and family who laughed and loved, and I too, laughed often and loved always.
My concussion has stripped me of most, if not all, of these blessings. And because they all contributed to my visualization of self-image and self-worth, I've also lost pieces of myself. The fear of never knowing if I'll find them again scares me most.