Senior publishes memoir on concussion experience

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Part way through last year, senior Lindsey Glass realized that due to a concussion she suffered freshman year, she would not able to read the required amount for her American Literature class.

Glass turned this setback into an opportunity when she wrote and published a book about her injury, Concussion: My Story as Patient Zero, after she was allowed to take English as an independent study.

“I just wrote the entire year, because writing was something I was able to do,” Glass said. “It was definitely a process I hadn’t experienced before and a length of writing I didn’t realize I could do. The end result was definitely something I couldn’t have gotten from a regular English class.”

English Curriculum Coordinator Mary Burchenal, Glass’s independent study and sophomore year English teacher and the editor of the book, said Glass was able to write her book for class credit due to her unusual circumstances.

“It’s not something I’ve done before, and I don’t expect to ever do it again,” Burchenal said. “This is one of those situations where I was willing to take my time to do it because I knew her, I knew her circumstance and I didn’t know what else we were going to do.”

Glass met with Burchenal one block every week until she finished her 30-page book, which she self-published on Amazon Kindle.

“The point of me publishing it was not at all to make money,” Glass said. “I really just wanted to tell my story and hopefully it would help people, whether it’s people with concussions or people wanting to learn about concussions, if it’s families or parents that want to know what people have been through.”

According to Glass, positive exposure has come from her writing. She said she was approached by people trying to create an online resource for families and people experiencing concussions for the first time.

“As soon as I mentioned the book, they wouldn’t talk about anything else,” Glass said. “They posted it on their Facebook and then a close friend of mine posted it on Facebook, so now the whole school knows it exists. It’s cool to know people are looking at it.”

Burchenal said that the biggest challenge in editing the book was helping Glass be more open about her feelings on the experience, but that ultimately doing so has had a beneficial effect.

“It’s had a lot of public ramifications that she was willing to share this story and that’s part of the bravery,” Burchenal said. “When you’re a teenager you don’t necessarily want everybody to be involved with your business, especially when it’s become an academic disability in very real terms.”

Another valuable part of the experience for Glass has been the process of writing a book itself, something she is glad she was able to do as a junior in high school.

“I think having the opportunity to do so much writing is incredible,” Glass said. “I think having written a book is good for college, but it’s also an interesting thing you can say you’ve done. It’s not a very long book, it doesn’t have to be a long book, but the fact I went through the process of finding who my audience was, having a certain voice behind what I’m saying and having a piece of writing that’s meant to be read beyond just turning it into the teacher and getting a grade, it’s not something most people get to do.”

Thirty-nine months after the accident, Glass still experiences symptoms, including headaches, dizziness and problems with memory. She is no longer part of Brookline Resilient Youth Team (BRYT), a program which helps students adjust back to school after extended absences due to conditions or injuries such as concussions, and attends normal classes, although she said she has to push herself to always go to class. Occasionally she is asked by BRYT to speak with students to encourage them to be careful with using electronics after having a concussion, because she believes it is possible that doing so contributed to her continuing symptoms.

According to Glass’ mother, Amy Glass, the concussion was discouraging at first, but Lindsey Glass slowly changed her attitude.

“Our entire family tried everything to see how we could fix the problem,” Amy Glass said. “I noticed over time Lindsey was very frustrated, but as she realized how concussions worked, she figured out how to turn it into a positive. She taught herself how to play guitar and made friends through BRYT she wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

The main message Lindsey Glass said she wishes to impart in her book is to try to use struggles in a productive manner.

“I did treat myself like a victim,” Lindsey Glass said. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. But there was a turning point when I stopped expecting each time to go to the doctor for them to find a solution. The faster you can stop treating yourself as a victim, start using your experiences to move forward, help others and progress research is when your life, your situation and the problem will become meaningful instead of a setback.”

Glass wrote an opinions piece about her concussion in the May 2014 issue of the Sagamore. Read it here.

Mairin Quillen can be contacted at [email protected]