When most of us picture the path of a concussion, it involves some kind of head trauma, a diagnosis, days spent in darkness, social isolation, and eventually getting accustomed back into daily activities. Yet, with my concussion, I had a very different view of the path it took me on. In fact, I would say my concussion gave me a bit of a tour around the St. Lawrence campus—even though I thought I knew all there was to know about SLU, being an Admissions Ambassador and leading tours. My first stop landed me in the Athletic Training Room on the bottom floor of the Newell Athletic Center.
Athletic Training Room
With 34 varsity sports teams consisting of a large portion of SLU’s student body, many of us know how amazing the training room is. With so much space, rehab equipment, workout machines, and trainers all designated to specific teams, athletes tend to spend a lot of time in here. While at my varsity volleyball practice one day in the Fall of 2018, a chaotic serving drill resulted in my getting hit in the head and becoming extremely foggy. Immediately, I was chaperoned down to the training room and diagnosed by our team’s trainer with a concussion. After about three days of staying away from technology and classes, I checked back into the training room and immediately began my recovery process. Someone, usually our trainer Matt Salmen, was always in the training room to help me heat my neck and slowly incorporate minor exercise into my daily routine. These weeks allowed me to really get to know a lot of the trainers, the resources there, and just immerse myself in a positive community in which my peers were also working to get back to or maintain their physical health.
The Health Center
Honestly, I dreaded the next stop on my tour based on my previous experiences in doctor’s offices. Now, as I felt dizzy even standing up, I wasn’t very motivated to go to the Health Center and sit in a waiting room. Yet, I found myself in and out of there many times that fall. The secretaries set up my appointments over the phone to ensure I didn’t have to wait to be seen, even though the Health Center does have walk-in hours which are great for sudden issues. The kind nurse practitioners and the invested doctor I met with always ensured my health was improving and seemed to truly care. They worked with the Athletic Trainers to track my progress and helped me set up appointments for physical therapy and for an eye exam at nearby facilities; tasks I never could have accomplished on my own.
Something people always tell me on tours is how nice the students walking around seem to be. Though this isn’t a location to point out, it’s more of something you need to experience for yourself. Being told not to attend classes, to try to avoid lights and technology, and having to isolate myself was extremely difficult. Previously, I thrived on the SLU campus from meeting up with friends at Northstar Café for hours or participating in study groups in the library. Yet, my teammates and peers ensured I was still included by bringing me dinner, listening to podcasts in my room with me, and constantly checking in. My teammates were always sure to stop by and fill me in on the earlier practice. Most of all, my coach, Shelly Roiger, was in contact with me daily to get status updates and inquire if I needed anything. She offered to drive me to appointments and was extremely understanding about my inability to be at practices and games. Through these small actions, it somehow felt like an entire campus was rooting for me to get better.
Student Accessibility Services
Next up on the tour was a place I had to look up on the campus map to locate. As I began to feel a bit better, I needed to make a game plan as to how I planned to catch up on my academic work. I remember getting an email from a counselor in the Student Accessibility Services Office about setting up a meeting. This office works closely with students with learning disabilities to provide them with accommodations, even if those are temporary. When I was initially diagnosed, an email was immediately sent out to all of my professors to inform them of my condition and of the mandatory two-week extension period on assignments that I would need. This was truly a relief that allowed me to focus on improving my health. After about a week of recovery, I sat down with a counselor to plan out all the things that I had missed, when they were due, and how I would carry out completing them. The counselor also provided me with a calendar for planning and some stress-relief play-dough. Simply having someone to talk to who had worked with many others in my position was such a beneficial resource.
Open Office Hours
At St. Lawrence, professors are required to hold open office hours and they readily encourage students to attend them. These hours are listed on the syllabus you receive on the first day of classes, yet my entire first-year, I don’t think I knew where a single one of my professor’s offices were located. Yet, the counselor really encouraged me to reach out to my professors and sit down with them to plan how I would best navigate turning in assignments. I think I was in the office of my Organic Chemistry Professor, Dr. Tartakoff, the most that fall. Being in such a rigorous course, I had missed a lot of material and he worked closely with me to give me helpful practice problems, teach elimination mechanisms on the board in his office, and he even took the time to make a completely new exam for me because I had to take it so long after other students. Not only was I able to master the material and be very successful in this course, but I fostered a relationship with Dr. Tartakoff and many other professors during this time. When I began to apply for summer internship opportunities, I had strong relationships with so many faculty members and was able to ask for letters of recommendation from a variety of professors. Now, I am in and out of my professor’s offices all the time.
An Entire Campus
Though my tour around campus over this month of recovery caused me to walk into new buildings, utilize new resources, and interact further with my community, I realized in the end that these factors were interworking with each other to promote my health and future success. Doctors, counselors, trainers, friends, and professors alike were in constant communication with me and each other to not only hold me accountable but just to check-in because they cared. I’m happy to say I attend a University that does, truly, care about its students.