Big wave surfer Mercedes Maidana suffered a severe brain injury while surfing. Her recovery story is compelling and encouraging for anyone who has a concussion or has a loved one suffering. After undergoing her long and difficult journey back to health, Mercedes is now living in Hawaii and running a retreat for women who want to experience a new beginning in life.
One day while out on the water in Hawaii, Mercedes was dumped by the wave she was surfing. While being rescued, she was then hit by three other 50ft waves, one after the other, in quick succession. In 30ft of white water Mercedes ended up doing cartwheels underwater while heading towards a cliff. Her body and brain were both pounded so hard she thought that she would die. The lack of oxygen and relentless tossing of the ocean was terrifying.
Because of this incident Mercedes’ reaction time deteriorated and affected her future performance on the surf, leading to another incident. On this occasion her 10ft surfboard slammed into her forehead resulting in a serious concussion. In that terrible moment of darkness she knew it was a devastating blow, however the hospital treating her casually dealt with the cut on her forehead and said she would be fine. Despite this casual diagnosis from the hospital, Mercedes started seeing spots, was vomiting, had a fever, and felt dreadful later that evening. So she returned to the ER where she underwent further testing. The hospital determined that she had a mild concussion and it was nothing to worry about. A typical response.
Five days later Mercedes’ brain started to shut down. Every day she felt worse. She had no strength for five months. Eating was difficult – it took her the whole day to eat one meal. She couldn’t walk her dog even one block. She couldn’t read. Text messaging or using electronics was impossible. Daily living was a nightmare. She now suffered from intense fatigue, acute anxiety and felt her brain was letting her down. Depression began to take over as she lost her job, sponsorship, husband, and health. She scraped by on survival mode until she hit rock bottom.
The doctors Mercedes initially saw prescribed her antidepressants and told her to carry on with her life. So, she continued to surf! This was her life. However after miscalculating and crashing from a series of other waves (totally out of character for her) she knew she had to stop surfing and seek further medical help.
The treatment Mercedes then received was a combination of hyperbaric chamber oxygen therapy, biofeedback, eye movement therapy, supplement therapy, nutrition therapy, and cognitive therapy (which at Amen Clinic we call ANT therapy – getting rid of Automatic Negative Thoughts). A major turning point in Mercedes’ recovery was when she changed her diet and eliminated sugar. She says that as soon as she did this her depression was gone and didn’t come back!
Concussion patients also need to get their hormones tested and optimized. One hard knock to the head can disrupt the pituitary master hormone gland which can then turn off the other hormones. It is quite normal for concussion patients to need hormone replacement for every major hormone.
The brain SPECT scan Mercedes received from Amen Clinic helped her doctors personalize treatment just for her and actually showed the damage to her brain. Her brain, like the heart and other major organs, needs treatment in order to function properly after major trauma. Placing the brain in a healing environment with the treatment Mercedes received enabled her to recover and get her life back on track. She has learned that sharing her story, rather than keeping it to herself, is healing and finds that people can relate to her more if they know she’s not perfect.
If you or a loved one are dealing with concussion trauma, please don’t delay treatment that can heal. Contact our caring team and take the first step to recovery today.