“Where’s my family? WHERE’S MY FAMILY?!?”
These are the first words I remember uttering – make that screaming – after “waking up”. Thankfully, my good friend Mike was there to calmly reply, “Clay, they are in the Philippines.” Apparently, he had to repeat himself about 15 times; once for every time I asked the question.
About 10 minutes earlier, I hit my head on the concrete floor while playing in a roller hockey playoff game. I remember skating hard towards the opposing player before falling with him on top of me. My head crashed against the ground and I groggily skated to the bench. Appropriately, the name of the other team was the Goon Squad.
According to Mike and my other teammates, I sat at the end of the bench “out of it” for about 10 minutes or so. I was babbling coherently and incoherently, alternating between being able to name the guys on our team to not knowing what day of the week it was.
Once Mike had heard enough, he led me to the dressing room. Quite frankly, I can’t even remember skating to the dressing room or changing out of my gear. Mike later told me that after I had changed into my clothes, I kept making fun of my own outfit. Come to think of it, that’s quite normal for me.
Mike ushered me to his car to take me to Richmond General Hospital. I was still in a fog while we whipped through the streets of Richmond, and I started to slowly come to my senses as we entered Emergency.
After checking in, we waited for the doctor. Ironically, it was in the exact same room that Mike was in a few weeks prior…waiting for the doctor to examine his broken arm. Mike did his best to keep me awake, making small talk about the Canucks, work, poker, and anything else he could think of. And this was in between me asking the same questions over and over:
“Did you see how I got hurt?”
“How long was I out for?”
“Did you see how I got hurt?”
“What was the score when we left?
“Did you see how I got hurt?”
“How’s Jason’s trip going?
“Did you see how I got hurt?”
I asked Mike to contact Gail (who’s in the Philippines) through Whatsapp and I was grateful for the calm and clear way that he communicated with her. He never panicked nor sounded anxious, and I’m sure that helped put Gail at ease. Mike also attempted to contact my brother and my mom.
The doctor came in and asked me what happened. I gave him a pretty good description of what I remembered about the incident until Mike calmly offered:
“He’s just repeating exactly what I told him.”
After putting me through a few tests to evaluate my concentration, balance, and communication, the doctor confirmed that I had indeed suffered a concussion. He advised that I get plenty of rest and have someone come to stay with me to check on me throughout the night.
Recalling that I was to fly out to Atlanta for YouthLeader the next morning, I asked him if he would recommend me staying behind. He concurred, citing the stimulation that would come from the long of day of travel, including the flights, airports, taxis, and hotel. When I told him that my week would consist of 16 hour days with 80 teens, he reiterated his recommendation.
Mike drove me back to the Ice Centre so I could pick up my van. I thanked Mike for taking good care of me; he was only able to look after me because he too was injured and thus not playing.
I cautiously drove home and gingerly put my hockey equipment away before taking a shower. My mom arrived a short time later with dinner. While I waited for her, I cancelled my flight for the next morning, and I called my co-trainer for YouthLeader to tell her what happened. Thankfully, she was able to find a replacement for me on very short notice.
Initially, I was really upset at the thought of not going to Atlanta. I enjoyed my time there last summer and was looking forward to working with their youth and adult leaders. However, once they were able to find a replacement for me, I knew it was God saying to me, “Don’t worry Clay…we’re all good. They don’t need you. I got this.”
I let a few people know of my plight, and posted one update to social media:
It took 41 years for me to suffer my first concussion. Thanks Mike for taking care of me, for taking me to the hospital, for putting up with my babbling, and for answering my repeated questions. Gonna try to limit my screen time (yeah, right haha) over the next couple of days. Would appreciate your prayers.
I started to receive phone calls and texts throughout the evening. I knew that screen time was a no-no during my recovery, but I also didn’t want to leave people hanging (although I’m sure that they would understand). Thus, I replied to all of my messages before going to bed.
I had a good rest Saturday night and awoke Sunday without a headache, dizziness, or nausea. I spent most of Sunday in bed and in the dark. My family and friends continued to message me throughout the day, and I tried my best to answer quickly without spending too much time looking at a screen.
One of the best messages was from Mike, as he said:
“If you are reading this…get the F$@# off your computer. It just occurred to me, make sure you check your helmet carefully that there aren’t any cracks in it.”
What a caring guy. And yes, those symbols were his and not mine.
That evening, I went to the 6:30pm Mass at St. Paul’s. I sat between Mary and Jiggy on the altar (we were serving as Eucharistic Ministers) and it took me a few sentences into the First Reading to realize that I was on the wrong page in the missal (I was on the wrong week).
Communion was tricky for me as I was constantly changing my focus from the ciborium to the parishioners. I actually had to slow down a couple of times to regain my concentration. Thankfully, I didn’t do anything silly like attempt to put a host in someone’s ear.
My mom cooked dinner for me Sunday night (pineapple chicken…one of my childhood favourites) and stayed over once again. I had another good night of rest and stayed in bed most of Monday before driving out to Surrey to meet my mom and brother for dinner. I then drove back to Richmond to watch our Holy Rollers roller hockey team lose to the evil Goon Squad, eliminating us from the playoffs.
It was great to be around the guys, and I was able to share the complete story with all of them in the locker room after the game. They in turn shared stories of what they witnessed a couple of nights earlier when I got my bell rung. Hearing their accounts was both comical and scary.
I slept alone at the house on Monday night and had another day of rest on Tuesday. I ran some errands and then Oggy and I went out for dinner before attending the Joe Zambon concert at St. Francis of Assisi parish. It was a wonderful night of music and testimony, and it was great healing for my head and heart.
Wednesday morning I saw my family doctor and I was thrilled with his diagnosis: he told me that I could resume my regular routine, including exercise.
Thrilled to announce that I’ve been activated off of injured reserve with no post-concussion symptoms. Thus, I am free to resume my daily routine of exercise, blogging, and over-sharing on social media. Thanks for your prayers, visits, and messages. They helped me get through a very tough and lonely time.
A photo posted by Clayton Imoo (@claytonimoo) on
I wasted no time in activating myself. Since Wednesday morning, I’ve enjoyed meals out with friends, visited peoples’ homes for dinner, gone back to work, exercised, had my hair cut, attended a concert, and attended a baptism and reception for my precious Goddaughter Avary.
It feels good to be active again after a few days off my feet. A couple of my friends have suggested that the concussion was a way to slow me down and help me focus on important things.
But I beg to differ. At the risk of sounding proud or stubborn, I feel in complete control of my life and my activity. I don’t think of myself as particularly busy. In fact, I’ve always stated that in some cases, busyness is a sign of poor time management.
The toughest part was not having Gail and the kids here with me during the first few days after the concussion. I was extremely lonely, especially at night. It’s amazing how powerful one simple touch or hug is. Holding one of Kayla’s stuffed animals just isn’t the same.
Thus, I was incredibly grateful for the prayers, visits, and messages. They helped me get through a very tough and lonely time.
As I reflect on the last week, I realize how fortunate I am that this is my first concussion in 41 years. I play a lot of sports, and I play them hard (though not necessarily well). Here’s to this concussion being my first…and last.
And in a brilliantly-timed Mass reading, the Gospel of Mark today stated, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
Well, I indeed went away to that desert place by myself to rest a while. It was difficult. It was necessary. And it actually was fruitful.
But I don’t plan on going back anytime soon.