Jennifer Conway was home. It had been a full day volunteering with the Jubilee in New Glasgow, and in the early hours of Aug. 5, 2018 she was getting ready for bed.
She was in the bathroom when she felt an unpleasant sensation.
“My jaw started shivering as if I was cold.”
Then Conway lost consciousness, fell, and hit her head on the floor.
When she came-to, everything had changed.
“When my eyes first opened I had no idea where I was,” Conway told The News. “I was lost.”
Conway, 43, used to be a payroll support worker at Sobeys.
“I was addicted to work,” says Conway. “I really miss the accomplishment of doing the work.”
The Monday after her fall last year was a holiday, but she was still scheduled to work.
“I was the only one scheduled to take the time files in. I went to work. I actually drove myself. I made it. But on Tuesday I think I got there and had to get someone to drive me home.”
For the next 14 days Conway says her head was swollen so much that it pressed on the frames of her glasses.
Nearly a year later Conway still struggles with the aftermath of her concussion. With the help of her family, neighbours and medical team she is on the slow road to recovery.
Conway experienced severe impairments to her balance and vision as well as cognitive delays resulting from her injury. And in the early days of her recovery she and her family knew that some major adjustments would need to be made.
“It’s been challenging,” said Conway on July 8, 2019. She was in the kitchen of her family home in Springville sitting with her fiancé, mother and neighbour, with a Great Pyrenees named Zeus watching quietly from a sunroom.
“I created a safety plan,” Conway said referring to the lists that she keeps: step by step instructions to help her get through everyday tasks.
“I had created a plan so that we would still have a house to live in because I want to be a mom, a fiancé and a partner.”
“I’ve found a huge improvement right from the beginning to now,” said Conway’s fiancé Chris Johnson. “It takes time. It could be five years, it could be one, it could be ten. It’s not like a broken bone.”
Conway says that one of her biggest challenges has been reading and interpreting numbers again.
The difficulty largely comes from what her eyes are seeing on the page. For instance, a single decimal point will sometimes appear to Conway as four decimals, like double, triple and quadruple vision.
“They can build lenses so that people who see doubles can have prism lenses that can reduce the double vision. But when they tried that with me, instead of seeing three I was seeing six,” said Conway.
“I always used to split my own firewood and now I’m not allowed to use the axe. That’s on my safety plan,” said Conway laughing. “I had to relearn how to cut everything. Instead of using a little knife in the kitchen I use a big chopper which is easier for me to separate the real one from the multiples.”
Over the last few months Conway says that the multiples in her vision are getting easier and easier for her to separate. Font types and ink colour can make a huge difference in her reading, and she is reacquainting herself with the math that was so essential to the job that she loved.
“In March, I had practiced counting to 50 successfully. In April, I was struggling to get through the 70s. it took weeks of practice to get to 80,” she said. “That is embarrassing to admit, but so true.”
Conway is the first to admit that she is her own worst critic and her biggest concern and complaint has largely been on the effect that her recovery has had on those closest to her.
“Exasperated. I feel like I make them exasperated.”
Conway’s mother, Jo-Anne Smith, their neighbour Corinne Johnston and her fiancé have been all-hands-on-deck throughout the year.
“It’s tough for her because she was so independent prior. She’d go out and split wood, mow the lawn, cut down a tree and dig in the garden. Now, all of a sudden, she has to rely on someone else,” said Johnson. “But it can happen to anybody. It can be severe, it can be crippling. It’s life altering and more and more needs to be focused on that.”
The recovery is on-going, but week after week and month after month Conway is recovering what she lost.
“When I couldn’t even climb the stairs, my grandson Charlie went down them with me on our bums,” said Conway. “I wasn’t alone. I have the most precious moments shared with my family.”