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Concussions: Part 2

The aftermath of a hit to the head is something surreal. Everything started to go in slow motion, from the time I saw the bubbles underwater to breathing for the first time to then trying to swim to the side of the pool. My coach at the time, was watching me. I told her I felt fine, but as a precaution, she tested my pupils.

One way to know if your brain has been raddled around too hard is by testing the reaction of your pupils. Slow (or no) reaction means there’s something wrong and a normal reaction means everything should be fine. I had slow pupils, but nothing that looked too serious. I was told to get out of the water and lay down, away from lights and loud noises. At first everything felt fine, but as the minutes and hours dragged on the symptoms started rolling in.

Soon I had been out of the pool for a month…

Then 2…

Then 3 months.

I had stopped eating in an attempt to maintain a figure suitable for Synchro and my mind was tired of sitting alone in dark rooms unable to go outside with friends. I was depressed and in pain.

No one really understands what a brain injury feels like, and it is also a different experience for everyone who has one! I felt as if knives were stabbing my eye balls from the inside out. Slowly I started to feel better and therefore, I started training again. I even started to FEEL happy again, but soon after I thought I was finally recovered I received a kick to the head that would set me back again.

I had taken what I thought was necessary rest and trusting my own judgment went on to train again. That year, I went on to win National Champion in all 5 events I had entered.  I had achieved what I wanted, but the brain is a funny thing… 

For 2 years after my initial concussion I felt that stabbing pain, every single day. Some days it was worse, some days it was bearable.

…To be continued…


Concussions: Part 1

Not many people understand why I am an advocate for concussion awareness. My experience with concussions was horrible, to say the least, and everyone in this sport or any other high impact sport needs to understand the risks before they jump in head first. To this day I still take these risks… 3 concussions later, for the pure passion of my sport.

It was approximately 11am on July 2nd. I remember it being a beautiful sunny day, just like any other in Montreal. I only spent a few weeks training with the Junior National Team and I have to admit that I was scared out of my mind.

Meng, the Junior National Team coach in 2010, was fierce… Much like she is now, although after spending these past 4 years with her I understand her method more clearly…. She was THE coach. She made everything happen and we were swimming for perfection. Anything below that was a failure and Meng gave us the belief that we could reach that goal. This team, built with a strong and talented group of girls, was the hardest working team I had ever been on. Up until now, synchro had been my passion. I did the job I had to do for myself and for the pure joy of competing, but with Meng, it was something you wanted to do for her, for the team. We fought and we were awesome!!

I was on such a high, understanding that my place on the team could be temporary, I had made the top 8. I was one of the youngest on the team, with 3 years left at that level. I was working hard, gaining experience from all the girls ahead of me. It was on this day, July 2nd 2010, that my journey on this team would be over.

Picture yourself lifting a girl out of the water. The plan is that she would reach a split in the air above your head and then decend in the same way she came up. Sounds easy enough! We lifted her, myself as the base, giving her all the energy we could to make a successful highlight. “Let’s make it even better”, we thought! “What if we could just give her enough push so that she would go over top of Claudia’s head and land in front of her?” Now-a-days this has been done quite a bit, but back then this was something new… Other teams have done it before, but for me this was a new challenge! The plan was in motion with everyone on the same page, or so we thought… We tried the highlight and BOOM.

Searing pain rushed through my body like an electric shock. I remember seeing bubbles all around me, then closing my eyes and feeling hands grabbing at me to come back up to the surface. This moment probably lasted around 3 seconds but for me it was minutes.

…To be continued…