February 23, 2020
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How a fall on the ice changed my life

Kim Block.

Last week, I stepped down from a television news position I’ve held for the past 39 years — co-anchor of the 6 p.m. news on WGME-TV (the CBS affiliate in Portland). I’ve held many other positions there as well, but the one consistent role of my television broadcasting career has been that 6 p.m. news slot.

I was just 24 years old on my first night on the anchor desk on Jan. 5, 1981. If you do the math, you may think the allure of early retirement is what prompted my decision. But it was something very different that led me to step down.

It was a fall down. A literal slip on the ice in January 2019.

It was snowing outside and after a recent thaw, there were hidden patches of ice all around. I was on my way to work and had made it out of my slippery driveway, but I needed to go back for something I had forgotten. I decided to walk down through my yard and made it almost to my front porch, when suddenly, both feet slipped out from under me and I landed hard.

Now, here’s the scary part. The back of my head broke my fall. It hit the icy ground once, then popped up and slammed down again. It sent my body into a tailspin of whiplash and contortionist poses.

And I felt something I had never felt before. The gelatin-like tissue that holds our brain smashed back and forth against the interior of my skull. It is in this process that our brain nerve cells are stretched and rendered non-functional, at least temporarily. Every single concussion is different, and most people will recover quickly. Those brain cells have an amazing capacity to heal. But it can also take a very long time.

In my case, by the next day, I could not move a muscle due to soreness — similar to being in a car crash. I began suffering with unrelenting vertigo, nausea, pounding headaches, severe photophobia and hyperacusis — sensitivity to light and noise.

I could not walk a straight line and needed to hold on to the walls to walk around my house. I could not drive, cook, read, watch television, hold lengthy conversations, fold socks or sort the mail.

And the never-ending pounding in my head was nearly unbearable.

Now, after more than a year of intensive therapies, I have come a long way. But because of continuing cognitive issues along with extreme sensitivity to stimulating environments, I am taking a step away from the anchor desk — and toward continued healing.

I would like to take a moment to honor all of those who are suffering with traumatic brain injuries. It is one of those “invisible” injuries, which means to you, people may look fine. You may not be aware of their internal struggle, and how hard they are working to carry on a conversation, and exist in this noisy, bright, active, challenging world.

To that end, I have a suggestion on behalf of sensory sensitive people. Wouldn’t it be great if grocery stores, malls and other retail spaces offered a one- or two-hour window one day a week when the lights and noise would be turned down? Trust me, it’s not just traumatic brain injury patients who would appreciate this. All of our brains could use the rest and it might even get me into the grocery store again!

But you can help, too. Be kind and gentle with people, whenever you can. It may just help someone take another step toward recovery.

And be kind to yourself. Take things a bit slower than you think you need to. Rest your brain. It really is doing all the work. Hold your loved ones close, and know that life can change in a single moment.

I hope to see you back on television at some point, but for now, thank you to everyone who has reached out to me from all across Maine. It has been an honor and a privilege to tell your stories and to bring you the news of our day.

Kim Block is a long-time news anchor with WGME-TV.


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