In November 1996, it was a light snowy, hailing day. I was a college cheerleader for the University of Michigan, a dream I had worked and practiced hard for. I will NEVER forget the first time I ran out of that tunnel. I still get chills to this day! GO BLUE!
In my senior year during a game, I was tossed approximately 20-25 feet in the air. I should have gone straight up but instead I was launched up and back, ultimately landing on my neck without anybody catching me. I likely went up and back because my feet were wet. I cannot recall if I lost consciousness. I do remember getting up and feeling like something “had snapped” in my neck and going to the sideline. That evening I began vomiting, became dizzy, had a headache and my feet were purple. I now know that I was experiencing signs of a serious concussion.
After the fall or as I like to term it “being dropped on my head”, I saw one of the leading neurologists in the country and have seen many more since then. My diagnosis for 20 years was “migraines”; every neurologist (until I saw the NBA Concussion doctor), discounted the fall from 20 years ago. Therefore, I went on with my life, thinking these symptoms would go away. I had no idea that my life would be changed forever. Additionally, I didn’t have the foresight to see what an undiagnosed concussion would lead to a myriad of other health issues including daily chronic pain (herniated discs, migraines and awful nausea), anxiety, insomnia, depression, gut-brain connection, vision loss, light and sound sensitivity and a compromised immune system, the list goes on. Also, I was not aware that each additional concussion exacerbates the symptoms.
In 2014, I incurred two more concussions back to back which completely turned my world upside down. I went from being a high-functioning individual (despite the aforementioned symptoms) to virtually a couch potato. I couldn’t get out of bed for days, sometimes weeks. I needed help with the simplest of tasks to merely function. I lost everything that in my mind defined me: my career, home, independence, identity, self esteem and confidence. You many notice that I did not mention my health which should always have been #1!
Looking at me, you would never guess I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I look normal. Having a TBI for many is an invisible injury and/or disability. My TBI went undetected for over 20 years. I was a medical guinea pig for these 20 years. When I was finally diagnosed with a TBI, I felt a sense of relief but also felt like I was handed a death sentence. I had two choices though: 1. Give up or 2. Educate myself, become my own advocate and research how to heal myself. I know I will never get back to the high-functioning individual I once was but that wasn’t healthy either as I had serious workaholism tendencies.
It has taken a lot of courage to go public with my story. I am telling my story in hopes of bringing awareness to female concussions and how our bodies heal differently than men. I’m sure others have been through just as much, if not more. I do not claim to be an expert. Each person recovers differently and it’s not a competition of whose injury is worse than others. The key is to become the best I can be despite my limitations. That’s not too much to ask for if I put in the work, right?
One day I hope I can use my business background (BBA, MBA, CPA) and 20+ years working experience to help brain-injured people like myself. Over the last 4 years, I have educated myself and tried many treatments, especially holistic. I’ve spent A LOT of money out of pocket (not covered by insurance). I plan to share my knowledge, research, diet and treatments with others with the intent that others will not suffer to the extent that I have. I’m not only a TBI survivor but a warrior!