My name is Drew Chernisky. I started this first post diving in really deep into my recovery but I stopped myself and realized that is definitely not me. I am not a diagnosis and I am not my brain injury – something I am still working on.
My name is Drew Chernisky. I started this first post diving really deep into my recovery but I stopped myself and realized that is definitely not me as a person and certainly not my identity. I am not a diagnosis and I am not my brain injury – something I am still working on.
I am 30 years young and a Cleveland native. I am the youngest of ten children. Sometimes, jokingly, I am referred to as “number ten,” though to this day I am still mostly referred to as “baby Drew.”
Growing up, we lived in a house with a lot of land which was great for any and all sports. My siblings and I would form teams and play a little bit of everything – running bases, wiffle ball, baseball, basketball, street hockey. It was because of my older siblings that I got into sports, but specifically, ice hockey.
Flashback to my early years. My first skates were laced up when I was just three years old. I would never look back; it was quickly ingrained into my being. It was a part of me then and is still a part of me now. I admit I am still wrestling with my relationship with ice hockey because without it, would I be in the condition I am in now? Would my life be forever changed?
Growing up, I traveled all over the country playing ice hockey and frequented Canada a lot to play in tournaments. It was something to always look forward to – the road trips, bonding with teammates, locker room music, endless snacks, playing mini hockey in the hotel hallways until we got in trouble for “making too much noise.” This passion took off like wildfire.
I played boy’s hockey up until bantams and then joined an all-girls team which I played on through high school up until my senior year when I transferred schools to play on a team which really prepared me for college hockey. My first two concussions occurred during high school hockey.
I played college hockey at Salve Regina University and studied biology, chemistry and music. Hockey was always that constant thing that kept me grounded. I sustained three documented concussions during my college career. The key word there is “documented.” I would later find out that the constant thing that grounded me was also the same thing to change…everything. I felt suddenly uprooted.
I spent most of my free time devoted to my friends and family and maintaining those relationships. Besides hockey I spent my time traveling, going to sporting events (mostly baseball and hockey games), concerts, working out, getting lost reading a book, playing my violin and making music…the usual things a twenty-something year old would enjoy. Where I’m at now, these seemingly little and easy things were such a luxury then.
After college I took a year off to study for medical school and gain some experience. I traveled to Kenya where I volunteered in a hospital and an orphanage. When I returned, I worked as a medical scribe in a local emergency department.
I decided to go the physician assistant (PA) route. It was a dream come true when I was accepted. I obtained my Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies at Ohio Dominican University. After graduating, I landed my first job at the Cleveland Clinic in the emergency department. This was another dream come true. This is where I worked for nearly three years up until my life-changing injury.
During the time period between college and becoming a PA, I only played pick up hockey maybe two times total. It wasn’t until randomly that I found a local women’s team to play on in 2016. The team was Team CLE, consisting of former college athletes and those who just wanted to have fun. And that’s what it was – fun. It was something I craved on the weekends, something to just completely turn off my mind and get away. It was the perfect outlet. Then my world changed.
October 13, 2018, I sustained a concussion in an ice hockey game. Since that time, I have lost my job, seen countless specialists, traveled all over to seek treatment, and there is still no set time frame for my recovery. In the past 27 months I have been to 275 appointments plus one week in Georgia and one week in Chicago for brain rehabilitation. I have been prescribed around 20 different medications with very rough side effect profiles and tried countless supplements. I have lost a lot of my independence being unable to drive and work.
I have experienced many dead ends but have also encountered some positives and met some great people and providers along the way. I will explain what has helped me thus far and what hasn’t. Some of the treatments set me back big…like hospitalization big, but maybe you could also learn from those too if you are considering one of those routes.
If you are suffering from a traumatic brain injury of any sort or the aftermath labeled post concussion syndrome, you may be feeling alone, disheartened, helpless, hopeless, terrified. You may be wondering if you will ever be the same again. If you know someone suffering you may be wondering what exactly that person is experiencing because it is so difficult to articulate and you may be wondering how to be there to support them. This is a learning process, for both the one experiencing the injury but also those supporting them. I am continuously learning something new about my own recovery as time goes by.
I hope my personal experience enduring this recovery can shed some light and also that my background as a medical practitioner can provide a unique perspective. My hope is that my experience with many different treatment modalities may guide you into a direction you may have never considered and maybe one that could spark your recovery into an upward trend. At the very least, may you feel a sense of community and connection.
If you are the loved one of someone struggling through this recovery, know that a little empathy and compassion can go a long way. What you see on the surface is never the whole story.
Every word is filled with what is left of me.
Thank you for coming to my site. Follow along on this journey by subscribing and share with anyone who may be of benefit.