Sara Berlin: Local Athlete Recovers from Serious Concussion

August 20, 2016 is a date that will forever be in my memory. I received a very serious concussion, due to a cycling accident, that changed my life. My fiancé and I were participating in a charity cycling event, on a closed course, in Howard County. We’re not sure what happened, but I crashed – hard. I could not have been luckier because I crashed in front of a police officer who was able to get me help quickly. I was unconscious for three minutes. First responders rushed me to a shock trauma facility.

I haven’t been able to remember the two weeks that I spent in the shock trauma hospital. My family accounts for that time though, reminding me of the exceptional care I received. The trauma team performed a wide range of assessments and determined that I had broken my clavicle, my temporal bone (in multiple places), had two brain contusions, and a large laceration on the outside of my head that required staples to close. The doctors were very clear with my family – the helmet I had been wearing saved my life. The team treated me with various medications, trying to get the swelling in my brain down. For several days, it was touch-and-go as to whether or not I would need surgery to reduce the swelling. Thankfully, I didn’t need it.

When I was moved to a rehabilitation and orthopedic hospital I saw physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, in addition to a neurologist. The specialists called my progress “astounding,” and released me after a week. I continued for outpatient OT (occupational therapy) for my broken clavicle and only needed two sessions with the speech therapist. My progress took everyone by surprise, given the severity of my injuries.

I returned to work at the end of October 2016 and my progress continues to astound my family (and me) on a daily basis. I’m slightly more than six months passed my accident and I am so grateful for the ongoing progress. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience have been life-changing! My concussion has been tough on me and my family, but it’s taught me to ask for, and accept, help (which is something I’ve always struggled with).

My doctors tell me that I’ll encounter some challenges this year – a weaker immune system, getting fatigued more easily, etc., but I am learning to listen to my body. Recovery isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the alternative. My long-term prognosis is excellent and my doctors expect a full recovery in a year. They’ve also told me that I will be back doing triathlons before I know it!

I choose gratitude everyday for all the progress I’ve made.

Sara Berlin is a Special Educator, with a specialty in teaching students with Autism, teaching for Baltimore County Public Schools. Currently, she is a Consulting Teacher, working with new and low-performing Special Educators. She spends her summers at Camp Louise, where she serves as the Division Head for the middle school program, as well as the Inclusion Coordinator.  In her free time, Sara can be found on the bike paths of Howard County, as she loves the outdoors and is a triathlete!