Catching an Edge

Mitch Wilson suffered his first concussion in July 2015, the summer following his first year as a student at Queen’s University. Mitch was enjoying an afternoon of wakeboarding on the lake with friends. Skimming across the surface at around 50 kilometres per hour, he caught the edge of his board and fell headfirst fast and hard into the water. At that speed, the impact felt more like he hit a wall.

It took him roughly three and a half months to recover. And unfortunately, he soon learned from experience that people who suffer a concussion are more vulnerable to sustaining subsequent head injuries. Nine months later, he joined his fellow Queen’s University students at a pre-exam stress relief event. It was all fun and games in his match in the inflatable jousting arena until his opponent struck him hard in the side the head.

This time, Mitch wouldn’t recover as easily as before. His injuries left him debilitated for almost a year. “I was unable to leave my house or see people aside from my family. I could not read, exercise, go on any type of screen, or doing anything that involved small levels of concentration. I was extremely sound- and light-sensitive, constantly fatigued, developed persistent sleep issues and dealt with a nonstop ‘vice’ headache,” Mitch recalls of his period in recovery.

Luckily, Mitch was referred to St. Michael’s Hospital, home to the largest head injury treatment centre in Ontario. At the clinic, Mitch was cared for by an interdisciplinary team of experts in neurology and ongoing treatment of patients with traumatic brain injuries.

Mitch was impressed by the comprehensive care he received at St. Michael’s: “The initial form we had to complete covered all fronts. The neurologists I met with helped a lot with my mindset and posed useful recovery strategies to help me improve my sleep and relax my mind.”

During his recovery, Mitch experienced many setbacks but the exceptional support he received at St. Michael’s has helped him get back to life and made him determined to help others struggling with post-concussion syndrome, too. “Concussions are invisible injuries that are often misunderstood,” he observes. “When you are walking down the street or sitting in a lecture hall, no one can really tell there is anything wrong with you. People give you weird looks when you're wearing sunglasses or earplugs everywhere you go. Additionally, they wonder why you cannot continue a simple conversation for more than five minutes at a time.”

But he’s not looking for sympathy. Mitch is sharing his story to raise awareness of the debilitating long-term effects of concussions and he’s fundraising to support research in the Neurosurgery Department and the Head Injury Clinic where he was a frequent patient. To support Mitch’s campaign, visit his fundraising page at stmichaelsfoundation.com/mitch or call St. Michael’s Foundation at 416.864.5000.

Although he still deals with post-concussive symptoms, he’s able to manage now; he’s even active again and doing the things he enjoys. And, as he finishes up his Bachelor of Economics degree, he has an advantage over other recent graduates: he knows how to catch an edge.