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I’m not a person that “gets” headaches. I rarely reach for the ibuprofen and usually, there’s an outside reason for pain in my forehead. Occasionally, though, I do get hit with an ache behind my temples that feels like my skull is in a vice grip and a few times, like today, my eyesight starts to go in my right eye. It starts in a little spot, almost like the world is getting digitized, and colors light up my peripheral vision. Medically speaking, it’s called a migraine with an aura – which makes it sound like I have magical powers, but basically, it just means I can’t ride my bike when I can’t see out of one side of my face.

It’s calmed down today but I can still feel it a bit so I don’t want to be on the computer long. I’ll tell you how it started though because I can distinctly remember the day it happened. It was a home game on the upper pitch at UNH. I was playing outside-center. The other team had the ball, the girl with blonde french braids came hurtling down the pitch with the ball. I went to tackle her, overshot the mark, and used the wrong shoulder as I leaned into her. We both hit hard, and as we came down, the forwards were behind – one throwing a knee into my back.

As the ruck moved away, we got up. My coach yelled from the sidelines asking if I was in one piece. I threw her a thumbs up. My back wasn’t that bad. I hit the ground hard but got back up. I looked down the pitch toward the play. Another ruck and they were coming back towards me. Then it started. My right eye started to show splotches of green and purple. I didn’t remember hitting my head. A stampede of girls was sprinting toward me and soon I could only see half of them. I dove into the tackle again blindly, crawling out towards the sideline. My eye going black. There wasn’t any pain that time, though.

“Uh, Hey, Rich?? I yelled over to my trainer. He turned from the bench where he was wrapping my teammate’s knee. Our wing kicked the ball to the other side of the field. “What does it mean if I can’t see out of my right eye?”

Rich loved us, loved his job as the athletic trainer, but he hated rugby. He took his job seriously and had recently been to conferences on how much new information and research was coming out on concussions. He was the most sarcastic person I knew when no one needed bandaging, but when we were down for the count, he went into action.

Furious, he rolled his eyes up to the sky as he pointed toward the sideline.
“Out. NOW!” My coach pulled me out during the next break and I sat on the bench as Rich shined flashlights in my eyes. No signs of a normal concussion. My vision came back as I watched the game, just as it does now as I go about my day every so often when it happens. I felt fine, but of course, he wouldn’t let me back in to play.

The following weeks were full of memory and balance tests because Rich decided it was a minor concussion. Weeks without playing rugby, without movement, without alcohol. In my appointments, I’d say the months backward. Remember these ridiculous words from this appointment to the next. I would walk slow circles around the indoor track in my mocassins, wishing to run again. I did, and I went on to play more seasons and get more injuries. But it was all worth it to be on that field.

Now on the random days where my eye decides to malfunction and my head is pounding, I’m put right back on that field, and I groan and mumble about my old battle wounds and I miss my teammates and that crazy college life that I left behind.

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