Once I read this article and watched the video, I had to contact Sally. Her brain injury and its symptoms seemed to be very similar to mine. To start, we were both 23 when we had our accidents and I know first-hand about how it feels for someone that age, used to living away from home, hanging out and going on adventures – for lack of a better term – with friends, and to have that taken away. We both have double vision. We both have weakness on one side – although she had to learn to be left-handed because it was her right side that was effected! I was fortunate enough to have left side weakness, and since I’m right handed, I didn’t have to switch.
A little background on Sally Francklyn (please check out her site): Sally is an expert skier from Colorado Springs, Colorado. She wrote for Ski and Skiing Magazines and now does some freelance writing, including this article in Elevation Outdoors; an interview with Bobby Brown (not the New Edition Bobby Brown, the freeskier Bobby Brown). Her recent work includes skiing in Chile and, of course, rehabbing and recovering from a brain injury (check our her recovery video!). To quote Sally directly: I joined a PR team in Jackson, WY supporting clients like Arc’teryx and Nordica. I wrapped up a stint as the online editor for Skiing and Ski Magazines, and I’ve also worked as ski patroller, a social media marketer, and a barista.
So, I contacted Sally via email and Facebook and we decided to have a chat (online) about our brain injuries, challenges, and what we’ve learned; about the injury and ourselves. Here’s how it went:
Nick: How’s everything going?
Sally: Great, how are things for you?
Nick: Not bad. I just got back from lunch after a swim.
Sally: Are you working today?
Nick: I don’t work now. I’m looking for work.
Sally: Your blog inspired me to start my own blog
It’s called braininjuryblog.me
Nick: Thanks. I’ll check it out.
Sally: How long after your accident did you start working again?
I also tried Pilates thanks to your recommendation
Nick: I went back to finish my master’s after two years and started work after four.
Nick: How’s Pilates going?
Sally: I just went to watch a lesson, and it was only old ladies. Ha ha.
Nick: Yeah. That happens.
Sally: They have something called mat Pilates which I might try also.
I’m young and pretty in shape so I don’t want it to be only old ladies.
Nick: I’m thinking really hard about doing teacher training in Pilates.
Sally: You will be a teacher? That would be great.
Nick: It’s in Toronto , which is a three and a half hour flight away.
Sally: ruh roh
Let’s talk about TBI’s though
You and I had a pretty similar injury
I was a road biker too
And we both have double vision
Nick: Yeah, I think so. How long were you in hospital?
Sally: 3 months…or more. I don’t remember.
Sally: It’s actually a little more than 4 months
Nick: I didn’t truly start road biking until 2002. I was brain injured in 2003.
Nick: Inpatient rehab?
Sally: Yes, plus some outpatient
Nick: How long was that?
Sally: 4 months for the outpatient…I think
Sally: Luckily I was under 26 and my parents had great insurance because it would have been extremely expensive if they didn’t.
Nick: I was in inpatient for 5 months, then outpatient for 18 here, in St. John’s, then back in Victoria for 6 months when I went back to do my master’s in Victoria.
Did you have any surgery?
I had a broken back because of my accident.
Nick: I had a hematoma, so they removed part of my skull (bone flap) to relieve pressure, so I had surgery to put it back in.
Sally: Because it saved my life, it’s truly, extremely important for people to wear a helmet when they ski.
Sally: It makes me angry when I see pro skiers not wearing one.
Nick: Feeding tube? Tracheotomy?
Sally:I had a feeding tube also.
And a trach.
Sally: How long did the scar from your trach take to heal?
Nick: I don’t know about how long it took to heal. I’ve still got the scar from my trach.
Sally: Yes, I don’t know if it gets smaller
Mine has already, so I didn’t know if there was an amount of time as it got smaller.
Nick: I don’t know if it ever disappears. Probably not. It’s been ten years now.
Sally: OK. I didn’t think so either.
What else are you struggling with?
Nick: Not being able to play the sports I love so much and the camaraderie
Sally: Me too!!
My life used to revolve around skiing and its frustrating that it doesn’t anymore.
The camaraderie…with the other people you played sports with, or your friends?
Nick: I didn’t have my life around a sport like you did, but I loved playing water polo, cycling, racing triathlons.
Sally: I’ve done a triathlon also, and I don’t swim or run or bike as well as I used to.
Nick: In 2002 I biked across Canada with two of my best friends and roommates from university [I was brain injured in 2003].
Sally: Have you tried biking yet? That sounds far!!
Sally: Ha ha, Canadian people call it university, American people call it college.
Nick: Swimming is luckily something I can still do, though not as well, and it’s much harder.
Sally: I sometimes breathe underwater which is not helpful, ha!
Nick: The trip was 8002 kilometres total.
Nick: That’s about 5000 miles
Sally: It’s just different to hear how other ppl talk!
Nick: Do you get headaches?
Sally:Yes, a ton! I took medicine for it but I got them anyway.
Nick: I don’t [get headaches]. I think that’s weird.
Sally: So I stopped [taking medicine], and they stopped.
I had them every day, 3x a day.
Nick: Do you find you have more patience now?
I don’t think it’s any more than I used to have, but a lot has changed
Life used to be extremely easy for me, and now it’s much harder.
Nick: Yeah, me too. My life was easy before.
Nick: I had a lot of patience before. I don’t know if that’s changed, but it feels like other people have none.
Sally: It makes you slow down and think about what you do.
Nick: Do you find you get tired more easily?
Sally: I go to bed earlier and get up a bit later…but i used to go to bed early anyway.
Nick: As a skier I guess you did!
Nick: Well, maybe not light headed, but dizzy? I blame it on the double vision.
Well, I lied.
Sally: I get dizzy in a grocery store looking from left to right to find what I want, but I did so anyway.
Nick: Yeah! Crossing the road. I can’t really jaywalk anymore because it makes me dizzy swiveling my head.
Sally: What I’m struggling with the most is that what my life completely and totally revolved around – skiing – has been removed.
Not removed, but not as common as it used to be.
I used to travel the world for skiing.
New Zealand, Chile, Canada, you name it!
Nick: Yeah, that’s got to be really tough! I read your story on your blog. You had a great job!
Sally: Yes, I did. [have a great job] I was lucky.
Nick: I’m not a skier at all, but I can imagine how awesome writing about sports would be (especially your favourite sport)!
Sally: Yes. Totally!
I’m trying to freelance write, but the only thing I know is skiing!
Nick: I was 23 when I was brain injured, in university, and didn’t have anything figured out.
Sally: I was 23 also.
Just moved to Jackson, Wyoming
I LOVED that place!
Sally: Maybe I’d like to go back there, but all of my friends skied so it might be frustrating.
Enough about me.
What’s going on with you?
Nick: I’m trying to figure out what to do next that will let me stay in St. John’s. It’s a small place with limited opportunities…unless you’re in the oil business. Lots of oil offshore.
Sally: Yep, I’m sure of that
Nick: I’d really like to do something like teach Pilates. I’ve got to go to Toronto to take the course, so it isn’t cheap.
Sally: Yes, Toronto isn’t cheap.
Nick: I love writing too, but my experience, apart from my blog, is writing for government.
Nick: My story is going to be on concussionconnection.com on Wednesday.
I started my blog because I want to write about my brain injury and sports.
Sally: OK, that’s great.
End of chat with Sally.
Sally brought up an excellent point about helmets early in our conversation and I’d be remiss to not piggyback on her point. A helmet also saved my life when my accident happened. If I wasn’t wearing one, or if it didn’t work properly, I would be dead.
As is hopefully becoming more common knowledge , helmets cannot prevent brain injury, because it’s not the direct trauma to the head that causes a brain injury. It’s the slamming of the brain against the inside of the skull.
Sally’s love of skiing is apparent. So is the joy she gets from being athletic, in shape, and able to enjoy the outdoors and adventures. I too loved playing the sports I wanted, and being able to just have fun through any athletic endeavour. Here’s the catch; they wouldn’t be fun if we were constantly anxious about being injured. When you’re skiing or cycling, you don’t constantly, actively think about it – even keeping it in the ‘back of your mind’ is a fool’s errand. If you did, what would be the point of doing those activities in the first place?
The most important thing is to take the simple steps that will lower, not eliminate, the chance of a bad injury (or worse). Wear a helmet. Use proper technique. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Simple steps like that. It’s unfortunate for Sally and I that we are part of the statistic of people doing the right thing, but still being badly hurt. As strange as it may seem, I wouldn’t change anything leading up to or after my accident. I can’t speak for Sally, but I know that her accident happened doing what she loved (skiing) in a place she loved (Jackson, Wyoming).