Kim Block was an anchor on WGME’s news for 39 years. She has now officially stepped down from that position after more than a year out of work because of a traumatic brain injury suffered from a fall on the ice last winter.
I don’t know Kim, other than having met her at some function years ago, but I have known many with TBIs and the devastation such brain injuries can cause.
Traumatic brain injuries, like too many other illnesses or disorders, can be challenging simply because the person affected may look perfectly fine. Just as someone with heart disease may seem hail and hearty, or the individual with diabetic neuropathy may look the picture of health, the outward appearance of someone with a TBI can seem exactly the same as prior to the accident.
And the rest of us can easily forget – or dismiss – the struggles that person may be having. Worse, those who don’t know, may jump to conclusions about the individual, calling him lazy or stupid or faking it…
Years ago, I went into work with a migraine, and a student’s father accosted me in the parking lot because I’d failed that kid on a take-home test that was completed in her father’s handwriting, not hers. As I was trying to maintain my equilibrium and quiet the pounding in my head, this very same father accused me of being drunk. It was interesting that this was the conclusion that he jumped to, which clearly said more about his life than it did about me.
Anyway, Kim’s message below, which I’ve reprinted from a Facebook post, is powerful. You never know what someone else is dealing with. Be kind.
A statement from CBS 13’s Kim Block to you
Hello everyone. I’ve missed you! I’m grateful for this opportunity to catch you up on why I’ve been gone so long and what will happen from here.
A little over a year ago, I suffered a concussion, also known as a traumatic brain injury. It happened very fast. It was snowing outside and I had made it out of my slippery driveway, but needed to go back inside for something I had forgotten.
We had recently had a nice thaw, but it was cold again and patches of melted water had refrozen. The soft, gentle, light snow was covering a very sizable chunk of ice that had formed near my front porch. In one single swoop, my feet came out from underneath me, and I landed hard. Now here’s the scary part. It was the back of my head that broke my fall. It smashed not once, but popped up and smashed again, sending my body into a tailspin of whiplash and contortionist poses. And something happened 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 take a very long time.ADVERTISING
In my case, by the next day 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 I needed to hold on to 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.
But after more than a year of intensive therapies and hard work, both physically and emotionally, I have come a long way. I can do some of those things, but many are still difficult.
Which brings me to this moment.
I have visualized this very moment for the past 375 days. Every single day I have wondered and worried about coming back to this anchor desk and to all of you.
But – and here’s the big but – although my recovery has been very positive, it’s taking longer than any of us had hoped or expected.
I still need time to continue healing and I’m going to be taking it.
I’m officially stepping down from my position here on the anchor desk – one I’ve held for the past 39 years. I assure you this a mutual decision and I am incredibly grateful to my station and company for standing by me the past year. My co-workers have stepped up and stayed in touch and never once did I feel they weren’t on my side.
My friends and family have encircled me with their love and support – driving me to all my appointments and generally believing in me.
You can’t imagine how difficult it is to leave my anchor role – but the good news, is it’s not necessarily goodbye. The door is open for another new chapter here at WGME, and I can assure you that if I can – I’ll find my way back to you.
In the meantime, I do want to encourage you to learn more about concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
The injury is a lot more common than you may think. It’s also an invisible injury, so be gentle with people trying to navigate this active, noisy, bright, challenging world. To my fellow TBI warriors, I got you.
To all of you – I ask a few favors.
My social media accounts will stay active for a few more weeks. I’d love to hear from you. I’m happy to answer your questions. I’d love to hear if I’ve interviewed you and a little about your memories from the past 39 years. Maybe you can help me remember!
If you see me out and about, please say hello. I’ll be the one with the sunglasses and noise cancelling headphones, but I won’t break and I definitely don’t bite. This is still our community and I’m going to be very much a part of it.
And finally, be careful out there. Take it a little slower than you think you need to. Rest your brain. It’s doing all the work. Hold your loved ones close and remember life can change in a single moment.
It has been my greatest honor to have told many of your stories and to have brought you the news of our day.
To my co-workers, my family, my friends, my extraordinary medical team and all of you – I love you.
Let’s do our best to always show our grace.
Thank you for everything.