Can you believe we’re almost in December? Time has flown by and this year has been filled with many lessons. Here’s irony: start-up CEO suffers a severe concussion while building concussion recovery technology.
A year ago, I had my first concussion. It was a new low in a pandemic year; I was in the middle of building a company, raising funding, and helping my three kids through learning at home.
I felt the frustrations of having an “invisible,” temperamental injury, had to navigate isolation and confusing advice from doctors – the same as the concussion patients we were trying to help.
But that concussion also meant I became Neurovine’s first BETA tester. Being able to experience our technology as one of our users led to a complete hardware redesign, usability upgrades, and other innovations to speed recovery.
It’s been tough, but my head injury changed our approach to the problem we set out to solve.
How my concussion informed our technology redesign
This time last year, I was building a bunk bed with my kids. I bent down to pick up screws to secure the metal guard rail my kids were holding up when one end dropped, and the rail swung down onto my head like a pendulum.
The result: my first concussion.
I jumped right back into work, but after a couple of days, I noticed I wasn’t recovering. As the CEO of a company developing concussion recovery technology, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out our prototype.
But when I started wearing the EEG monitoring headband, I quickly realized it was uncomfortable. When testing the product ourselves, we didn’t have the 24/7 painful migraine that can accompany a concussion. I didn’t want to keep it on.
Trying to use our mobile app was also a challenge. It required a lot of navigating between pages, which felt frustrating because I couldn’t focus my eyes or concentrate on the screen. In fact, I couldn’t look at any screen not in dark mode without getting a screaming headache.
At this point, I thought my concussion was going to be a roadblock for developing Neurovine. But it ended up being an opportunity for me to evaluate our technology from an informed, critical, and vulnerable perspective.
How has Neurovine evolved?
My experience with our product was the eye-opener we needed to push for more user testing. Once we initiated broader outreach for feedback, it came pouring in – our newly developed Neurovine technology is the product of hundreds of experiences, focus groups, and interviews.
Our original onboarding process was 2 hours long; I went through this process a week after my concussion. I remember feeling drained and finding it extremely demanding to stay focused for that long. The process is now completely automated and has been shortened to half an hour.
I found it impossible to look at a light screen without getting a headache and realized our app needed more extensive accessibility modifications. The Neurovine app interface has been made entirely dark mode, 75% of text has been removed, and all screen transitions have been smoothed.
We have spent the full year redesigning our EEG headband. It’s now fully adjustable, a third of its original weight, lined with memory foam, and we replaced all the hard electrodes with fabric ones. We wanted to redevelop this component to be as non-invasive as possible.
The app-to-hardware connectivity has also been improved so users don’t have to configure Bluetooth before starting a session with the heart rate monitor, they can just click a button.
Reflecting on the Past Year
As much as my personal experience with our tech highlighted what needed to change, it also confirmed the positive impact Neurovine could have on concussion recovery.
A full year later, I still have trouble multitasking, but I understand my limits – and that’s largely due to my long-term use of our technology. If I start to see symptom warning signs, I clear my schedule so I can be back at work the next day instead of being out for a week.
Neurovine held me accountable for giving myself enough rest. I could see how my recovery was negatively impacted when I pushed past my limits and was encouraged when my data reflected the positive effect of pacing myself in my recovery.
Concussions are considered an “invisible” injury and symptom relapses are common, creating a very anxious and uncertain healing process. Using the Neurovine BETA, I could see my recovery in data trends – so even if there were ups and downs, I knew I was progressing.
“[Neurovine] made my injury visible and allowed me to be engaged in the recovery process rather than being a bystander in my brain health. The tech is improving mental health for our patients because they can finally engage in something that feels invisible to everybody around them.”
A lot of work needs to go into educating people about the physical nature of concussions – even if they’re not visible, time, rest, and physical therapy can be required to get you back on your feet.
My own experience with this injury has affirmed my belief in Neurovine’s potential to push back on concussion stigma and its ability to connect people to the support they need over their recovery process.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of a team where brain health is central. I didn’t have to hide my symptoms and could be creative in how we worked around them while entirely redeveloping our product.
Thank you to the amazing team behind Neurovine, as well as our partnered physiotherapists and all our prototype-user patients who have provided invaluable feedback. This year has been one of critical decisions, innovations, and tireless dedication, but it’s all been for building a technology that could improve concussion recovery for millions of people.
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