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Vernon News

Seven years and counting: The invisible effects of a concussion

He might look okay, but Steve Gosselin says that's part of the problem.

VERNON - When Steve Gosselin got whipped in the back of the head by a tree branch, he certainly felt the pain but the blow didn't draw blood or even knock him off his feet. He carried on working, but by the end of his work shift, he felt dizzy and threw-up. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion and told to take a few weeks off work.

"I'd been concussed many times before... so figured it would be just like any of the other ones; I'd be better and back on my feet in a week or two," Gosselin said.

That was more than seven years ago and Gosselin hasn't been back to his construction job since.

He's since been diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome. According to the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, that's what you call it if symptoms persist beyond three months.

The 38-year-old married father said he never even considered that his accident would have such a long term effect on him.

"I was very active before. I was in a street hockey league, and I was snowboarding every season, and I was working hard," he said. "I was fit, I had an eight pack, now I have a dad body and it's not from just having a kid it's from not being able to do the activities that I used to do."

Gosselin reckons he's had about a dozen concussion throughout his life.

One of the hardest things was to learn that his physical and mental boundaries were a fraction of what they once were.

"I'm very easily irritable," he said. "I get brain fog."

Gosselin has been through rehabilitation and although he originally shunned medication he recently has been trying a series of different drugs in an attempt to deal with his daily headaches.

"I wake up with [headaches], I go to sleep with them," he said. But the medications haven't worked. "It's a mask, and I'm not interested in a mask, I want a cure."

And while he can't simply cure post-concussion syndrome, what he can do is become an advocate for it.

"I just want to create awareness...and be an awareness advocate."

Gosselin has organized Vernon's inaugural Brain Health Symposium, taking place June 1, fittingly to coincide with the first day of Brain Injury Awareness Month. The event will feature seven professionals giving a 15-minute Tedx-style summary on concussion and brain injuries and what support and care options are available to those in need in the Vernon area. For the first time, he'll also be talking publicly about his concussion.

Although the topic of concussions is much more widely discussed in society now than five or 10 years ago, Gosselin said he still found it difficult to know where to turn to for help outside of his doctors office.

"I was pretty much on my own for the whole seven years," Gosselin said. And because people with concussions look fine, they often suffer in silence.

He said physiotherapy has made a huge difference in his life and he is interested in exploring music therapy.

A musician long before the accident, Gosselin says his love of music has got him through a lot. He plays upright bass in the band Barefoot Caravan.

"Music has been my therapy...playing music is the only time I forget my symptoms." 

He figured by this stage in his life he'd be making big bucks running his own construction crew, but while his new career as a musician and music promoter hasn't been so lucrative, it is his silver lining. The job lets him work at his own pace. He's doubtful he could hold down a regular job, with set hours and a firm schedule.

Gosselin says he has remained as positive as he could throughout the last seven years, he now feels better about the future than he has. It's something he says he can't really explain.

"If I can continue with the mindset I have now I think things will get better."

And what advice does he have for people?

"Be careful with your head."

The inaugural Vernon Brain Health Symposium takes place June 1 at Tidal Elements Healing Arts Studio from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The event is free of charge. For more information go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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