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  • Aileen McKernan

Concussion Recovery & Kindness

I never thought I’d write an article like this. I never saw it coming though. The ball. Before it was too late and I realized it was going to hit me in my head. I had no time to react other than scrunch my shoulder and turn my head as much as I could to avoid a direct blow. It struck and stung, half of my face went immediately numb. I knew it was bad. Everyone on the field gasped and I stopped to assess the damage. Was my nose bleeding or just running? Was my jaw broken or just numb? Then it came, the rushing, and I literally felt the whooshing of my brain shake side to side, the stars exploded in my head. I lowered myself to the ground still unsure if I was going to pass out or not and breathed. I couldn’t look up, the light was disturbing and my stomach heaved in a sudden onslaught of unrelenting nausea. The ref and a teammate stood by as silent sentinels. Their presence alone comforted me. A minute. Two. Maybe three. Some of the longest of my life passed and then I stood to polite applause and was escorted off the field.

The aftermath this past week has been interesting and difficult. Brain swelling, brain fog, brain rest, processing issues, memory loss, fatigue, emotional lability, impatience, unclear treatment pathways, prayer, experimenting nutritionally, vague recovery guidelines, light and sound sensitivity, decreased attention span, nausea, fear... Wait these are things that my patients struggle with not me. I have a brain injury. Yes, I have a brain injury. Did I wash my face? I wonder as I stand in the shower under a hot steaming stream of water. Well my washcloth is wet. But I didn’t condition my hair yet and that’s when I usually wash my face. I’m not sure. I get distracted by the uncertainty and just stare. I swear five minutes go by. Did I wash my face? I wonder again remembering that I wasn’t sure if I washed it. No this is not some patient vignette. This is my life in recovery. This was just two days ago, a week out from the blow. I could share more, but really the thing that’s on my heart to share, the most important lesson I’m learning through this journey, is the power of kindness.

When you feel like your brain is scrambled eggs and everything both internally and externally irritates you so that the only thing you can do is nothing, you learn what self-kindness looks like. When you have a job running a clinic and you try to go back to patient care prematurely and can’t problem solve for your patients in real time and your boss is understanding you learn what other kindness looks like. When you have nothing to lean on in your faith, no capacity to draw near to God in praise or in worship or in His Word as you are accustomed to you learn what God’s kindness looks like. When people who don’t know what you’re going through call just to check on you out of the blue you learn to receive kindness. When you’ve blown your budget on unexpected medical bills and picking up food because you can’t prepare it and your roommate makes nachos not knowing you were going to stop at Chipotle but just couldn’t spare the expense again you learn more about kindness. When you randomly bump into a coworker when you are out trying to go for a walk and you are embraced as family with a hug and a kiss, you become strengthened in kindness. When you’ve never struggled cognitively and you’re suddenly shifted into experiences you’ve never asked for you learn to be a lot more kind to others.

You never know what someone is going through. You never know the burden they bare. You see I was able to go out and run errands. It was difficult and nobody knew what was going on in my brain, but the girl at the Whole Foods check out counter who complimented my pink eye shadow that one day, made my day, because it took all I could just to get dressed and put on that make up. She didn’t know! But I did and her random kindness, her random reaching out as insignificant as it seems, made that difficult venture worth it. Kindness. Who knew that kindness contains the power to heal?

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

I think most of have heard or know on some level the healing power of love, but often times we overlook the simplicity and power of kindness. At least that’s what post concussion recovery is bringing to light for me. Love is something typically we reserve for our families and our friends, but kindness is much more accessible. It can be bestowed upon strangers and kin alike and as a facet of Love, has just as much potential and power to heal according to the Word of God. Kindness, apparently is an expression of God’s grace, the forgiveness He showed us when He gave us His son. You can’t get any more powerful than that!

The Power of Kindness to heal. Wow. I’m learning through a concussion! As difficult as this has been for me, I am grateful but that’s a whole other article I could write. 😊

For further thought:

· Have you ever connected kindness with demonstrating God’s grace before?

· Can you think of a time when someone was unexpectedly kind to you? What affect did it have on you?

· Can you think of a time when you were kind to a stranger? What affect did it have on that person? On you?

· What is the cost of kindness?

· Are you willing to open your eyes to those around you for opportunities to display kindness today –even if that person is yourself?

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