Michael Blois is a brain injury survivor. We first met him a number of years ago through our close association with the St. Michael’s Head Injury Clinic. With our help he went on to law school and articled with Howie Sacks & Henry in 2014/2015.
June is Brain Injury Awareness month, an appropriate time to share Michael’s story about how he was injured fighting in Afghanistan, how he responded to his injuries, how he learned to seek out help from others, and how he used that help to achieve new goals for his life, while living with the effects of a brain injury.
Following is the second in a four-part series of articles, of Michael’s ordeal.
When I returned to Canada I was seen by a military doctor in CFB Petawawa, where I was stationed. I was told that I had a concussion and that I would need to rest and take it easy until my symptoms were gone. I was suffering from headaches, neck pain and stiffness, ringing in my ear, deafness in one ear, dizziness, fatigue, and memory loss. I was told that these symptoms would gradually go away, with rest, over the next month.
I did rest over the next month and followed all the instructions of my doctors, but I never felt that my condition was very serious. By the end of the month I was working out again, running again, and generally getting back into my life as it was before I went to Afghanistan. I knew that there was another deployment to Afghanistan in roughly twelve months that I wanted to be part of.
I felt that with time, all of my symptoms would go away and that I would be back to my old self again. However, the more I ran and the more I worked out, the worse my symptoms were. I was getting so dizzy while running that I would nearly fall over, and so fatigued that I was struggling to make it through my workday. I refused to listen to my body telling me that this was too much and that I needed to rest. I never told my doctor about how I was feeling; that my condition was not getting better but was getting worse by the day. I was determined to go back to Afghanistan and I would be damned if I was going to let some headaches and dizziness get in my way.
I have friends who have lost limbs, others who have had their lives destroyed by PTSD and I was suffering from what I thought were only headaches, but now know was a brain injury. I refused to see my brain injury for its seriousness, and failed to realize that my determination to go back to Afghanistan was making my brain injury worse. I continued to push myself everyday through increasing pain and fatigue. It wasn’t until after many months of this that I put together that the increase in my symptoms was from not listening to my doctor’s initial direction to rest until the symptoms were completely gone.
Despite this realization, I continued on this path because I was ignorant of just how devastating a brain injury can be. As my condition got worse I did not tell anyone because I was beginning to fear that there might be something very wrong with my brain and that if I tell anyone I will not be able to remain a soldier.
Nearly a year from being injured, the headaches, at their worst, were completely debilitating, and I was starting to miss work because of them. At their best, the headaches were a constant, daily pain that I woke up with and went to bed with. I was starting to struggle to just make it to the end of each day.
Eventually, thankfully, I was not given the choice of seeking out the help that I needed for my brain injury. I was running; leading a group of recruit soldiers and I collapsed. It was common by this time — a year and half after my injury — for me to get dizzy, have severe head pain, and feel weak when running but I had always managed to make it to the finish. This time it caught up with me. I do not remember falling, but I do remember waking up in the medical unit at my base and talking to the doctor there about everything I had been doing and how it made my symptoms worse. From there, I was sent to the Head Injury Clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital and the healing of my injury began.
In Part 3 of this series, Michael will discuss how he finally accepted the seriousness of his injury, sought help and began his journey to recovery.Part 1: How I Sustained my Brain Injury Part 2: Denial of My Brain Injury Part 3: Acceptance of My Brain Injury, and the Road to Recovery Part 4: One Door Closes and Another Opens…