June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and concussions, especially in sports, are a big part of that conversation.
More research is being done into the long term effects of this type of brain injury, and one local man living with these effects assures you they are very real.
“I was riding a horse, and the horse decided to ride me,” said Bryan Dean, recalling how he got his most severe concussion in his 20s, although he has had several in his lifetime.
“In those days they didn’t know about concussions the way they do now. So the thinking was, you’re just going to have a headache for a few days and that’s that. So nothing got done.”
Struggling with the perception that concussions were no big deal, and that people with brain injuries were somehow social outcasts, Dean suffered from his symptoms alone for many years.
“Over a period of time I deteriorated to a point where I started to hide and withdraw,” he said.
“Then I went to the mental health to ask for help… They said I needed to go to Cranbrook for an evaluation, and after four days they said there was nothing wrong with me, and they sent me home.”
Dean was also beginning to experience panic attacks, but the culture of “tough” that he grew up with prevented him from acknowledging it as a problem.
“To be honest, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, that’s what I was raised with. You had to be tough. Well tough doesn’t work sometimes.”
About six years ago, a friend recommended that Dean go see Debbie Gudjonson with the East Kootenay Brain Injury Association, and he discovered what a tremendous asset that can be for people dealing with brain injuries.
Now Dean spends his time trying to raise awareness and education about brain injuries, particularly concussions.
“It’s really important for us to get the message out that if you have a concussion, you need to do something about it,” he said.
“Enough of this, ‘suck it up princess and get to work,’ mentality. This is not a laughing matter. They’re discovering now that people with brain injuries have shorter life spans, Alzheimer’s onset is earlier, and so on.”