I was the organizational hub of my household and a working professional providing for my family when I was struck in the head during a friendly basketball game last fall. That event upended my family’s life and showed me that Maine is losing the time and talents of many capable people because concussion care for adults is inconsistent and poorly communicated.

After my injury, I lost many of my abilities to organize, concentrate and remember, and I lost my physical stamina to do things as simple as go for a walk. I was prone to headaches and unable to tolerate loud noises or bright lights. My two boys, who are thriving despite their struggles with attention, appraised my lack of planning and organization skills and said, “Welcome to our world, Mom.” In an instant, I became unable to make a life for myself, or them.

And yet, my brain injury was totally invisible to people around me, who probably wondered about the woman wearing sunglasses in the supermarket. I appeared to be my normal self, but my brain was on strike.

As I have now learned, most people with mild traumatic brain injury, also called concussion, recover within a few weeks by resting. But for those who do not recover that quickly, symptoms can linger for years if not properly treated. Early intervention can minimize lost productivity at work, difficulty caring for children, and diminished quality of life.

Treatment of concussions in youth — especially related to sports — has recently improved, thanks to the efforts of the Maine Concussion Management Initiative, and elected officials, medical professionals, and schools throughout the state. But concussion care in adults is uneven at best, and at times haphazard.

Since being injured, I have learned that several acquaintances are struggling with concussion symptoms years after falling on the ice or off a bicycle. Most of these people have no idea there are concussion-certified physical and occupational therapists in Maine, that clinical neuropsychologists can often pinpoint the remaining issues and help improve the symptoms, or that symptoms can be caused by hidden visual problems that can be addressed with special glasses. And while there are not yet any approved pharmaceutical treatments for the concussion itself, there are medications that help manage symptoms.

An important question, then, is how to make concussion information available to more people in Maine. After a concussion, the injured person often has poor judgement and is advised not to read or spend time on the TV or computer so as to not exacerbate the injury. The patient must rely on their primary care provider, friends and family for help in finding appropriate care.

In my case, I lost many weeks of time that I could have been receiving effective treatment because many medical providers simply did not have the information they needed to be able to make appropriate referrals.

Maine is losing too much productivity from injured adults. We need to make concussion education easily accessible for primary care providers, and ask them to actively engage in concussion care. We need to give patients short, easy-to-understand written materials, since they are likely to forget much of what was said during an initial doctor visit.

We can also help friends and neighbors. If you know someone who has had a head injury and does not seem to be getting the care they need, help them research treatments and providers. Help them by driving them to appointments or to specialists that may be at a distance — they may not be able to drive themselves.

Four months later, now that I have received good care and the worst has passed, we can all laugh about my remaining forgetfulness — the boys nicknamed me “Dory” after the blue fish in “Finding Nemo” that has short-term memory loss. I am much better and continuing to improve. I started back to work recently, and I’m hopeful that one day I’ll be able to play sports with the boys again. There is every reason to think I will fully recover.

But I’m one of the lucky ones that had family and friends to advocate for me and help me find the right providers and treatments. Not everyone is that lucky.

Samantha Horn Olsen lives in Readfield.

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