While enjoying a night out with his soon-to-be wife in October 2019, Kevin Stone, 39, of Georgetown, Tenn., took a bad fall that left him with a broken ankle and a concussion. His ankle was surgically repaired a few weeks later. But finding a way to fix his injured brain took more than a year. Thanks to the expertise of Michael “Micky” Collins, PhD, clinical and executive director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, and his team, Kevin is now on the road to recovery.
“At first, I didn’t think I had a concussion because I didn’t immediately have any ongoing symptoms,” says Kevin. He had occasional headaches and a few dizzy spells, but they quickly went away. Then, eight months after the fall, he bumped his head on the bucket of a tractor. That’s when things got bad.
“It hit me so hard that I thought I had some sort of brain tumor,” he says.
As a wine salesmen, Kevin was in and out of busy stores every day to meet with clients. As the months went by, the job he once enjoyed became unbearable. “With the store lights and all the noise, I’d get really disoriented. It felt like the shelves were falling down on me,” says Kevin. “I’d feel good, then bang — it was like a mule kicked me in the face. I would muscle through work and then go right home to bed.” It got to the point where he couldn’t play with or help care for his young children.
Desperate for answers, Kevin visited several health care providers in and around Chattanooga — with no definitive results. He also searched the internet. That’s where he found a YouTube video of race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. talking about his successful treatment at UPMC for multiple concussions.
“I read his book and the symptoms he described — feeling trapped inside his head, sometimes claustrophobic, stunned, and panicked — were exactly what I was going through,” says Kevin. “It was Nov. 10, 2021. I called UPMC immediately and that’s when everything changed.”
On Dec. 7, Kevin came to Pittsburgh to meet with concussion experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. There, Dr. Collins and his team see more than 20,000 patients — including professional athletes — from across the United States every year. They helped develop the ImPACT® Baseline Concussion Test, now used worldwide to measure the effects of a concussion on the brain. It was the first test the team performed on Kevin — and it quickly confirmed he had a vestibular concussion.
With a firm diagnosis in hand, Kevin began a daylong evaluation process with various members of the concussion team. By the end of the day, he had a personalized vestibular rehab treatment plan that included daily exercises to follow back home in Tennessee.
At a follow-up visit in mid-January, Kevin’s baseline score had improved more than Dr. Collins expected. “I don’t know exactly how well I did, but I do know I’m getting better. I’m getting my clarity back,” says Kevin.
“Dr. Collins is the best doctor I’ve ever had,” adds Kevin. “He made sure I understood what was wrong with me and assured me I was going to get better. He and his team really care. I felt like I was the only patient they had that day. And it still feels that way.
“I’ve got a long way to go, but I know that I’ll be back to 100% “I’m not going to lie, it’s been rough. But if you push through and follow Dr. Collins’ advice, it will work.”