Living beyond the tragedy

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A reliable plan is needed for any young athlete who suffers a concussion.

I am a survivor of suicide — or perhaps I should say, I am trying to survive.

My younger brother took his own life. I am trying to find my voice. The voice that he no longer has.

My brother was an athlete. He played football, basketball and baseball. He lived for sports and his passion for the game was undeniable.

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He was the sweetest and most caring individual I have ever met. He was a fixer and always wanted to help people, on and off the field.

He loved his family and his friends dearly. He was my best friend.

During his career as a varsity high school athlete, my brother received several severe concussions, and those concussions changed him.

After sustaining those devastating blows, my brother’s mood, temperament and attitude on life changed forever. He stopped caring about school, and he experienced increased impulsive behavior. He was easily agitated and showed sudden and frequent outbursts of rage.

He complained of severe headaches and often found himself in a cloud, unable to focus. The changes were very noticeable and, from the beginning, I attributed them to his multiple concussions.

My brother and I talked all the time and we shared everything with each other. The changes I saw in him were terrifying to me and I often spoke out to my parents and friends about my concern. Those people tried to convince me that he was just “being an 18-year-old boy.”

My brother refused treatment and I was concerned for him deeply.

Unfortunately, my fear was lived out.

In a way, I think I always knew what would happen, although he promised me it never would. My brother and I spoke of suicide, because several years ago, his friend and teammate took his own life after also experiencing several concussions.

My brother never forgave his friend for the pain that he brought to everyone with his passing. He promised me that he would not want to hurt his friends and family the way he had been hurt.

From the very first moment of this living nightmare, I knew I needed to do something. I have read several scientific articles and news releases about concussion awareness in youth athletes, and my parents also saw a segment featured on the local news.

A reliable plan is needed for any young athlete who suffers a concussion. Getting legislation, currently proposed as LD 98, passed in Maine is crucial. I am willing to do anything and everything to raise awareness about concussions and about the serious side effects that can result from serious head trauma.

My personal hope is to raise money in my brother’s name, and for all of the athletes who also have been victims of concussions. I am in the process of setting up a nonprofit organization in my brother’s name and I would like the money raised to be given to high schools in need of better sports equipment.

I know that concussion helmets exist, but that the cost is pricey. I understand that these are not 100 percent foolproof, and that concussions are still possible, but the chance is significantly lessened.

I would like to begin first with my hometown, to save my brother’s teammates. My long-term goal is to provide helmets and updated equipment throughout the state.

I know that my dream is big, but I have to do something.

For my brother, whose life was too short, and for athletes everywhere.

Anonymous

Editor’s note: The author is a Mainer in her 20s. Her name has been withheld to protect the privacy of her family. LD 98 is before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. For more information on her work to raise awareness about concussions, send a message to the author at playitsafefoundation@gmail.com.

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