My Concussion Story

Kayla Zuniga

Who Am I?

I am currently a Junior in the nursing program at the University of San Fransisco. I started lacrosse when I was in 7th grade and played for a total of 8 years. I competed on a traveling team and was even recruited to play for a college in Virginia. But in my sophomore year of high school, I experienced something I would never wish upon anyone.

What happened?

My Sophmore year, I got my first concussion during a lacrosse game. I was a midfielder, running towards the goal to shoot when two defenders ran towards me slashing their sticks down in an attempt to knock the ball from my stick, but instead, both sticks came crashing down on my head. Of course, the refs blew the whistle and gave me the penalty shot, but it was too late for me. I didn't think anything of it so I continued to play for the rest of the game. About 2 minutes later, I'm running down the field with the ball when I get tripped and land on my head and then roll into two summersaults. Again, I thought nothing of it so I stand up and keep going. It wasn't till after the game my family noticed something was wrong. My family came onto the field to congratulate me and told me what a great goal I made at the end of the game. I looked at them confused and asked, "what goal". They continued to discuss the game and I stood there confused and unable to recall the game I just played. I told my mom I felt dizzy and nauseous, but I thought it was just because I had played the whole game.

Afterwards...

Once I got back to Las Lomas my mom took me to the Emergency Room and sure enough, they confirmed I had gotten a concussion. But the crazy thing was they diagnosed me with a double concussion due to the double impact. My brain was already injured from the first hit and then when I hit the ground my brain hit my skull again, causing another injury. I experienced symptoms such as extreme light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, horrible headaches, forgetfulness, and more. This happened at the beginning of the lacrosse season, so I didn't get to play for the rest of the season.

My recovery process...

The recovery process was HELL! The only way to get better is to rest and sleep. But don't fool yourself, because it's not like a vacation. You can't do ANYTHING! You're trying to heal your brain which means you want your brain to have as little strain and work as possible. No screen time, which means no phone, computer, or Netflix. I wasn't even able to read without getting headaches. I had to sit in a dark room and do nothing all day. And for an active 16-year old that isn't the easiest. I listened to audiobooks to pass the time but trust me it got boring after a while. One of the hardest parts was school. I was falling behind because of the injury. I pushed myself at first and tried to continue at school, But about a month passed and I wasn't getting any better, so the school decided to put me on Home Hospital. This is where I stay at home and have a teacher come to my house to bring the homework and teach me what I was missing. This way I was able to work at my own speed. We often had to work with the lights off because I would get headaches with them on. My concussion lasted 4 MONTHS! I was struggling to pass my classes and keep up with school. My concussion lasted until the end of the year. I even had to take my finals with my home hospital teacher. The recovery process was strange. It was as if I was having to teach my brain how to process information and work the way it had before. My brain wasn't working as fast as I wanted it to and it was extremely frustrating.

Today...

Today I am a lot more conscious of brain injuries, such as concussions. After my concussion sophomore year, my mom made me start wearing a helmet. Trust me I wasn't happy about it at all. Almost no one in lacrosse was wearing a helmet at this time. I was the only one on my team that wore one and I was extremely embarrassed. But my mom wouldn't let me play if I didn't wear it, so I did, and now that I look back, I am so glad I did! the first game I got whacked in the head at least 3 times! I didn't realize how much my head got hit during a game until I started wearing the helmet. If I could go back and wear a helmet during the game I got my concussion, I would. Even today, after my recovery, I still feel like my brain isn't 100% the way it used to be. The scariest part is that there are parts of my life that I don't remember. The concussion I experienced was brutal and it changed the way my brain is able to process information and recall events, which makes school and learning difficult. I don't feel like my concussion is ever really gone because of the effects and damage I am left with. My brain will never be the same as it was before.