Concussion Centre instills confidence in recovery

In January, twelve-year-old Matthew tried to read a flyer on a bulletin board. He tried to focus but something was wrong.

"It wasn’t making sense,” said Matthew. “I could see the picture, but I couldn’t understand the words. Then I thought, ‘There’s a serious problem here.’”

A few days earlier, Matthew had suffered a concussion at a hockey game.

"In the last seconds of the game I got blindsided by a player on the opposing team,” he said.

His symptoms were scary – severe headache, buzzing in his ears, nausea, and of course not being able to read. But he didn’t panic.

Concussion awareness ambassador

Ironically, Matthew was already working with a hockey league this season as a Junior Reporter to spread the word about concussions through a partnership with Holland Bloorview’s Concussion Centre.  

Matthew’s work included shooting concussion awareness videos and giving talks to other teams about concussion symptoms, management and the services the Centre provides.

"Holland Bloorview is trying to make the league and the game safer and I wanted to be a part of that because this wasn't my first concussion," he said.

That took place at another hockey game in October 2015. At the time Matthew and his family didn't know about the Concussion Centre and did their best to find the help they needed.

"That was a nightmare," said Matthew's mom, Kathy. "We were on the Internet looking at different websites and it was all contradictory."

Even the information they received from different medical professionals didn't add up.

"We had to piece a lot together ourselves," she added.

All-star concussion care

This time, Matthew and Kathy knew exactly what to do.

Last spring, Matthew and his team participated in an early care program which included a baseline test at Holland Bloorview. This program also provided Matthew, his teammates and their families with concussion education and training.

Shortly after he was diagnosed with a concussion, Matthew was seen by the experts at Holland Bloorview. "They showed me how to manage my symptoms and how to get better so that I could get back to hanging out with my friends and back to school," he said.

"They want me to get back to my normal life as much as I do," he added. "They get what it's like to be a kid! They want to make sure I have the right information to return safely."

A safe-haven for parents

"When your child gets a concussion you're scared; scared that their symptoms won't go away, that they won't get better," said Kathy. "Everyone at Holland Bloorview is positive and calming. It's the best place you can go; there's comfort, there's support, there's knowledge, they understand what you're going through."

"When you come out you feel like you have a grip, you feel like you have a plan," continued Kathy. "You know what to do and what steps to follow. You can call them if you have questions. You can get individualized support."

"I'm feeling better," said Matthew. "The symptoms have gone away. No more buzzing, headaches or nausea. I'm back to school, my PS4, piano and beating up my brother."

At his last visit to Holland Bloorview, Matthew received the all clear and has put his concussion behind him.

And he's made an important decision.

"I won't be playing hockey anymore," he said. "It was a difficult decision but it's the right one for me and my brain. I'm an athletic person and there are so many other sports to try. I've already taken a golf lesson and signed up for tennis."