In the fall of my freshman year of high school, only 2 weeks before high school soccer tryouts, I was hit in the head with a soccer ball during a tournament. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than the moment of dizziness and bloody nose. I played the rest of the game, and 2 games afterwards.
I went to a week of school, and it wasn’t until the Thursday after my concussion that all the symptoms hit me. I was extremely sensitive to light, sound, and my head felt like someone was taking a jack hammer to it.
My neurologist kept telling me “any day now” and that I just needed to “give it time.” A few months later, after laying in bed all day and night with closed blinds and sunglasses, I still felt awful. I was angry that no one understood my pain, and I was annoyed with my doctors who just kept telling me to be patient. Patience had never been a strong suit of mine, and this was really testing me. I felt incredibly isolated, and alone. All my high school friends were too caught up in their own lives to visit me, and they didn’t understand my invisible injury. I missed all the things that I had been looking forward to that year: soccer tryouts, homecoming, movie nights with friends, all of it.
After about 6 months, I felt well enough to start going back to school part time, and even started exercising slightly. It felt so good to be back with friends, but at the same time it was so hard explaining where I had been the past 6 months. My team of doctors decided that contact sports were no longer a safe option for me, and so my soccer career ended. I was devastated, having been a soccer player my whole life.
Two years after the incident, after struggling with constant head aches and sensitivity due to Post Concussion Syndrome, I turned to rowing, a sport that maintained the competitive team environment that I craved without the head injury risk. Rowing turned out to be one of the best things I ever decided to try. I rowed for the rest of my high school years, and was recruited to the Division I rowing team at USD. Suddenly, my reputation as the “concussion girl” became the “rowing girl,” and I loved it. While my concussion and recovery was a serious low point in my life, it gave me rowing, which turned out to be a huge high point.
Learning so much about why my brain was hurting during the recovery process also sparked an interest in Neuroscience. I can proudly say that I am on track to graduate in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, and hope to pursue a career in neurologic rehabilitation afterwards. TBI awareness, prevention, and support has become my passion, and I’ve had such an incredible time as a volunteer for SDBIF and also as a volunteer in Scripps Brain Injury Day Program.
My recovery was a long 2 years, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. This concussion brought me to rowing, brought me to USD, introduced me to Neuroscience, and gave me my lifelong passion for neurologic rehabilitation.
I urge all of you to look for the good in your recovery experience, and to hold on to your hope, even when it seems like you can’t any longer. You’re all so strong, and I believe with my whole heart that this is a battle you will win.
With love & strength,