Off the Bench: My life with a concussion

Harlie Bein
Fleming College rugby player

 

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was 14 when I started playing rugby, in Grade 9 at Brantford Collegiate Institute. I had the most inspiring coaches,

Jen Link, Jen Grierson and Stu Martin. They made rugby something that I had to play. It was a family I wanted to be a part of. Rug- by turned into a gateway to happiness and ultimately a door to accepting how my body looked to others.

When I started playing rugby, my roughness and my broadness made me useful and it made me feel strong. I was a force to be reckoned with on the field. I made my body into a machine because rugby made me want to be better. All that mattered was how I played and how I went out onto each pitch giving it everything I had.

I played for team Ontario for a couple years and it was the most amazing experience being able to play with other girls that have the same passion. We traveled to Vancouver, B.C., and won nationals in 2013. The next year our team folded because too many teams dropped out. I continued playing and stayed back for a fifth year in high school to win OFSAA Gold in 2014.

This past year, I attended Fleming College, where we won gold on November 14th, 2015. That’s the day I thought my rugby career was over. I suffered a severe concussion that day and I remember getting a few hits to the head

throughout the game, but I do not remember the final one. I recall getting up and asking to get off the field, then when the dizziness went away I turned back around and jumped into the play again. After that things went blank again. I don’t remember playing the last 10 minutes of overtime. I couldn’t remember the month, I couldn’t remember the score, I was scared. I was taken to the hospital that night, as my head aches grew severe and I was vomiting.

It’s been four months. They have been the longest four months of my life. I was told I couldn’t risk playing rugby again, that I had to stop going to school a month away from exam time. I had to retake my courses in the spring and stay for the summer to redo an additional course, which made me even more upset. I went back to my hometown, Brantford, for a month, where I for the most part stayed in my room, away from my family, away from everybody. I would visit with my concussion specialist Doctor Rowland, who is as exceptional a doctor as she is a human being. She was very blunt but very helpful as well. I was put onto anti-depressants in December to make me want to get out of bed, which I hoped would make me my exuberant and happy self again. The feelings I felt with a concussion were nothing I have ever felt before, feeling like a failure with school, feeling alone emotionally, so unmotivated and helpless. I felt empty on the inside, and it didn’t

bother me. I was depressed, and I couldn’t do anything about it. The anti-depressants started kicking in, and I started getting up out of bed in the morning, started talking and hanging out with my family. I know it pained them. I have seen a counsellor at Fleming a few times, and it really did help. I see myself as a very strong person and that I can conquer anything, but at the time I didn’t think I could do anything at all.

I got help, and I have been listening to all the advice I have been given medically. Because I am determined come next fall I will play again, of course with medical permission. I am taking the summer off rugby to focus on my courses, I know other girls have gone through exactly what I have and that no one should feel alone or unhappy. It’s unbearable at times, and it’s hard to explain how you feel to others when you don’t really know yourself. I hope that other’s will help themselves and listen to any medical help they get and that they will take care of their bodies. After all, it’s the only one we will ever have.