By Sue Tiffin
Published June 29 2017
Friends and family of Kieran Gillooly know the 29-year-old loves playing hockey fastball and softball.
The Algonquin Highlands resident’s energy and determination is what he and his loved ones now rely on in the hopes he’ll recover quickly from a sports injury that left him with a severe concussion and brain bleed.
The injury happened on May 13 when Kieran was playing softball in an annual memorial tournament in Minden. Kieran was the pitcher when a friend hit a line drive off of his bat.
“Kieran turned his head just slightly and the ball ended up hitting him halfway up the head near the temple” said Kayla Gillooly his wife of five years. “I can still hear the sound of that ball cracking on his head. It just gives me goosebumps. I was sitting on the bench and screamed bloody murder and ran out to him.”
Kieran said he saw green and a gush of clear fluid that Kayla said was likely cerebrospinal fluid poured from his nose.
“It could have been way worse” said Kayla. “A couple of centimetres the other way and I don’t think he could have got up off the field.”
Kieran waved away help and was later cleared at an emergency room visit though a doctor suggested he be watched from home for the next few hours and woken every two hours. At home after the pressure in his head increased he was kept overnight and released from the hospital the next morning on Mother’s Day.
“Kieran was just not himself and Tylenol wasn’t helping” said Kayla. “He was staring off into space. He wasn’t there it was like he was kind of staring past you.”
The staring would turn out to be seizures and the fluid that continued to leak down Kieran’s throat was alarming to Kayla though he continued to explain it away. When Kieran started speaking in a confused manner she packed up their two young kids and their dogs to stay with family and organized bags to take him to the hospital again.
“As I’m doing that Kieran’s pressure in his head reached a maximum and he couldn’t take it” she said. “He said ‘we need to go we need to go now.’ It’s like a switch had flipped where before he was saying he was fine.”
A doctor at Haliburton Hospital directed Kieran to Lindsay for a cat scan. Tests revealed a two centimetre bleed on the brain.
“This is crazy uncommon” said Kayla. “You don’t see a baseball hit to the head lead to brain trauma.”
Kieran was admitted to the hospital where he struggled to get comfortable due to pain pressure a possible sinus infection and adverse effects to the seizure medication he was put on.
In his desire to leave the hospital and return home to his kids Kayla said Kieran ended up overdoing it by trying to walk a short distance and required more rest.
“When you overdo it like that it could be days it could be weeks you end up declining and laying in bed” she said.
Kieran was released from the hospital a few days later and returned home to continue recovering.
“The drive home was horrible” said Kayla. “Kieran was having major light sensitivity and the drive with the bumps in the road made it unbearable for him.”
Once home Kieran moved into a “bat cave” with blacked out windows for four days.
“He wasn’t allowed to have any brain stimulation” said Kayla. “No TV no phone no radio – he was literally in there in complete darkness.”
Kayla said the isolation and need for assistance with walking eating and bathing was difficult for Kieran.
“He’s such an independent person” she said. “This little thing changed his whole life pretty much.”
After a recommendation from a neurologist in Kingston Kieran was referred to the Barrie Concussion Clinic. Kayla said Kieran is only the third patient with a concussion and brain trauma to be seen at the clinic.
“They were great” said Kayla. “It’s an amazing team down there that’s leaving no stone unturned.”
The restrictions on Kieran’s daily routine began to make him angry and irritable and Kayla said the team at the concussion clinic listened to their needs.
“Everything that made him him was stripped away from him” she said. “He’s not one to sit and do nothing. He’s always go go go. They were being really cautious because of the bleed on the brain but Kieran said ‘listen you have to let me go back to work just for light duties.’”
After further testing the team approved a very slow return to work. Kieran works as a heating and cooling technician for Kegal Heating and Cooling and also runs Algonquin Cottage Care his side business.
“Kieran has a long road ahead of him because once they give him the green light that the brain bleed has reabsorbed the clinic will then push him to find out what his limits are” said Kayla. “They will bring on his concussion symptoms and help guide him back with retraining his brain again.”
At Kieran’s insistence Kayla has returned to playing softball.
“He said that if he plays next year he’s definitely wearing a helmet” said Kayla. “He won’t play without one. He’d rather break his arm because in six weeks you know the cast is coming off. This has affected him and his life and us over a sporting game.”
Kayla and Kieran are grateful for the support they’ve been offered by family friends strangers and Kieran’s employer as well as Eco- Choice Pest Control who generously helped the family deal with an unexpected carpenter ant infestation that came at an already stressful time.
“The support we’ve gotten from everyone is amazing” said Kayla. “These nice words that everyone said on Facebook or on messages on his phone – he became more and more uplifted with every message and it made him agree and say ‘yes I am bullheaded yes I can get through this this isn’t going to stop me.’”
A stable EEG on July 19 will allow Kieran more freedom though he’ll still need to take it easy.
“He’s doing amazing” said Kayla. “He’s blowing everybody out of the water. This kid has so much determination to get back to being himself again.”
A GoFundMe has been organized to help the family support themselves during Kieran’s care and recovery: www.gofundme.com/support-for-the-gilloolys.