In January, Jan Levering took her kids sledding after working two 12-hour shifts as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse. Exhausted, she decided to take one run down the sledding hill before sleeping in the car. Halfway down the hill, the sled turned 90 degrees and launched Jan 3 feet in the air. She landed 5 feet away on her head. Conscious, but nauseous and off-balance, she skipped the ER and rested.
This wasn’t Jan’s first head injury. At 26, she sustained a head injury that resulted in her having headaches and seizures for years.
Two weeks after the January accident, Jan still experienced problems with balance, concentration and headaches. Her first shift back at work confirmed her fears. As a NICU nurse, Jan is required to remember a high level of detail and to multitask. She couldn’t do it.
Jan was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. Even after 8 weeks of rest, her symptoms continued. A neurologist referred her to the Post-Concussion Program at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Outpatient Therapy Center. There, Jan received a full assessment that confirmed the post-concussion diagnosis.
The rehab specialists at Mary Free Bed also discussed the possibility that the first injury from more than two decades ago may have something to do with why the symptoms were still so pronounced more than two months after the accident. Jan’s first concussion may also have been the reason she wasn’t progressing faster on her own. Dr. Bloom believed Mary Free Bed’s Post-Concussion Program would get Jan back on track.
The Post-Concussion Program created an individualized treatment plan that included occupational, physical, speech, and psychological therapies with the goal of returning Jan to her previous level of independence at home and at work.
“In occupational, I re-learned how to do everyday tasks like laundry and remembering directions. We focused on multitasking,” Jan explained.
The physical therapist worked on Jan’s balance and reduced the severity of her headaches with stretching. She stopped feeling dizzy and nauseated once she strengthened her eyes.
In speech therapy, Jan practiced choosing words and talking while doing another task. Jan remembers, “My kids were helping me complete sentences and find words. I had to learn to do it.”
Therapy was hard. “Sometimes I felt discouraged while doing the exercises,” Jan said. “My therapist explained that I was learning alternate ways of coping.”
Jan was struggling to find her place. She shied away from public places. “I couldn’t figure out where I was in connection with everyone and everything around me, but through my psychological therapy I learned how to deal with the anxiety,” Jan explained. “Each time I visited the mall, farmer’s market or grocery store by myself, my confidence increased.”
Her therapists met together each week to discuss her case. Jan said, “I felt so good that they were working together. Ideally, with nursing, you want the disciplines to work together. It was incredible to see that happen in my care.”
A therapist joined Jan as she returned to work her first shift. She is now cleared to work without restrictions. “When I want to skip a difficult task at work, I hear Dr. Bloom telling me to push myself,” Jan said. “If it weren’t for Mary Free Bed, I would not be back in the NICU. They taught me to multitask and helped me find alternate coping mechanisms.”
Back at work, the grocery store, and doing homework with her kids, Jan has found her place again.