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Emmett's Story: A Business Executive's Long Journey to Recovery

The Challenge: A Loss of Mental Sharpness

A fall down the stairs in October 2014 landed Emmett, 62, in the hospital. After doctors cleared and released him just two days later, he felt that he was okay to return to his normal routine.

But it wasn't long before Emmett realized that something serious was going on with his health. Four weeks later, he noticed some changes.

As a successful business executive known for his mental acumen, he noticed a decline in his ability to focus and think clearly. The mental sharpness that had led to great career success was now taking a toll on his performance at work.

Over time, Emmett's condition also started to take a toll on his personal life.

Along with the loss of sharpness, other symptoms began to arise, such as:

  • An overwhelming feeling of fatigue.
  • Problems following along and speaking in conversations.
  • Feeling anxious in crowds.

Troubled by his symptoms, Emmett feared the thought of a brain tumor, dementia, or Alzheimer's.

He shared his concerns with his doctor who ordered various tests to find out what was wrong. But each test result came back negative.

By May 2015 — more than six months after his fall — Emmett's doctors finally pinpointed the cause of his symptoms. Emmett had a concussion.

The Solution: Treatment at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program

Prior to visiting the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion program, Emmett's concussion treatment plan included speech therapy, a few exercises, and resting in a dark room.

But, as time went on, he saw no signs of improvement. In fact, things started to get worse. That's when Emmett decided to take medical leave from work to focus on getting better.

More than three years after his fall down the stairs, Emmett came across videos of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. He talked about his concussion treatment with Michael Collins, PhD, director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

After learning about Dale's story, Emmett felt hopeful that things could start to turn around for him. Soon after, he traveled from Westerville, Ohio to Pittsburgh to begin treatment at UPMC.

“Don't retreat to somewhere quiet, get out and fight this," Emmett recalls Dr. Collins telling him. “Treat it as a challenge you have to overcome."

Under Dr. Collins' care, Emmett's new concussion treatment plan followed an active approach. It included mental recall exercises, balance, and holding his gaze when walking.

There are many concussion symptoms, and Emmett was finally getting treatment for all of them—not just one.

The Results: Feeling Like His Old Self

Within 65 days of his first visit to UPMC, Emmett was feeling almost exactly like his old self. Dr. Collins cleared him to return to work, and he slowly started getting back to his normal routine.

The biggest test of all was airport travel. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the crowds and noise, he enjoyed the experience for the first time in a long time.

When thinking about his journey with the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, Emmett shares that he is grateful.

“It's not an exaggeration to say that this treatment at UPMC gave me my life back," he says.

Read more stories from concussion patients.