I Should Have Worn the Pink Coat

I knew I should have worn the pink coat.

I was getting ready for a walk at dusk, and I had a choice between the pink coat and the green, and for some reason I chose the green.

When the car hit me, my head struck the hood and I flew through the air. I hit my head a second time on the ground. There was a huge gash in my scalp.

In the ambulance I longed for human touch. Shock and fear and pain will do that to a person. I asked the EMT to hold my arm. The EMT refused; it was against regulations. This was the start of the medical system’s response to my head strike.

Next, I was lying on a gurney in Triage for 4 hours. Stillness is the typical recommendation for head injury, and I was as still as anything. Not only was I told not to move, but movement became less and less possible as time went on. The next time a doctor told me I could get up, and I didn’t know how to lift myself up off the table. I didn’t know what that meant.

That not-knowing is still with me years later.  Injuries that don’t show up otherwise may have lasting effects for years, and the lasting effect on me is that my husband has to help me figure out how to move from lying to sitting on a daily basis.

The emergency room tests that I demanded before my release showed “nothing.” Yet I couldn’t sit up. I had an image of an umbrella that had been crushed while open, an umbrella that creates width in the body. Nothing was broken and I had stopped bleeding, yet I knew I had a concussion.

How do we measure something that’s not happening?

In the emergency room, a thing doesn’t exist unless it can be measured. My concussion wasn’t measurable, and I was left alone without being touched. The repercussions are still working their way through my body.

All this came back to me again, and clearly, when I was treating a little boy who’d had two concussions. I knew both intellectually and intuitively, as well as empathetically, what had happened to him, and on my table, a great unwinding took place. One of his concussions cleared up a great deal, and I could still feel the effect the other had on him.

I’ve been thinking about concussion and seeking a Great Lesson, and I’ve been able to come up with two thoughts: Your brain can heal. And I should have worn the pink coat.

The latter isn’t much help to you, but there are steps you can follow to begin healing the brain yourself after a head strike.

  • Ask for physical contact: have someone hold your hand or arm
  • Make eye contact: human connection is one of the most important factors in reducing the impact of trauma and shock according to Peter Levine PhD.
  • Begin craniosacral therapy or cranial osteopathy within a 32 hour window to reduce brain inflammation and trauma.
  • Ask for diagnostic tests such as a MRI and CAT scan for a baseline.
  • Be patient. Your brain will heal with therapy, rest, and a good support system.

When people come see me with trauma, I teach them trauma release exercises. This gives them a way to encourage communication between the brain and the spinal cord.

We all have strengths and weaknesses in our nervous systems. Trauma can exacerbate an existing weakness, where early treatment leads to resilience. When you get trauma treated, it gets expressed instead of suppressed.

The child who came in last week with a concussion, he had a nap on the table while I treated him. He woke up less dizzy and nauseated, looking rested and relaxed; the treatment was the opposite of traumatic for him.

As with trauma, treatment deals with those areas that are both seen and unseen. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening; things happen without being measured, and measurement tends to justify certain kinds of treatment while ruling out others. In CranioSacral Therapy, if you get hit on the head, your body needs help responding, and that can start with immediate holding to stabilize the nervous system.

The pink coat is only preventive, unfortunately.