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"It's not just a headache"Kelley Linn

There have been two constants in Kelley Linn's life for over a year now: her love of volleyball and painful headaches from two concussions she sustained while playing volleyball.

Following a move from South Carolina to Massachusetts two years ago, Kelley tried out for and made a traveling volleyball team. During one game, she took a hard hit volleyball to the back of her head. In pain, Kelley shook it off and continued to play the remainder of the game. Kelley went to the doctor the following day and was diagnosed with a concussion. She had a solid headache for two weeks.

Three weeks passed and her doctor cleared her for all athletic activity. During her first practice, Kelley lost her balance and sustained a bit of whiplash, resulting in extreme pain. "I spent the next four weeks in my room with the lights off and the door closed," says Kelley. "Toward the end of this four week period, I started to experience additional symptoms including jerky body movements, difficulty with balance and overall weakness."

Kelley was experiencing post-concussion syndrome. She had physical therapy to help with her balance issues and took medicine for her headaches.

Kelley resumed volleyball in the fall after making varsity and being cleared by her doctors. Her next concussion occurred after a serve hit Kelley between the eyes. Kelley knew something wasn't "right" and returned to her doctor the following day to find her worst fears confirmed.

"At the end of the appointment, I heard the words I had been dreading. I suffered another concussion," says Kelley. "I spent weeks out of school with headaches that were consistently an eight out of ten on the pain scale." Kelley had a normal MRI and saw a concussion specialist.

"Nobody seemed to understand," says Kelley. Isolated from her friends and not allowed to watch television, listen to music, read books or use the computer, Kelley became extremely frustrated. She felt pressured to return to school, but knew she wouldn't be able to concentrate in a classroom with 20 other students.

"When Kelley was first injured in Spring 2011, we were blessed with her middle school nurses and counselor who were knowledgeable about concussions and reassured us that she would recover and that her schooling would not suffer because of her absences," says Kelley's mother, Amy Linn. "Her second concussion was much different. The first month or so, I did not feel much support from the high school community at all. It wasn't until I requested a formal meeting with the assistant principal and her counselor that I felt they really understood what Kelley was going through."

Upon seeing a concussion specialist who adjusted Kelley's medicine and put her mind at ease about the recovery period, Kelley began homebound instruction so she could do her schoolwork at her own pace as she coped with the neck pain and headaches. Kelley caught up with her school work in no time and started a 504 accommodation plan.

She has gradually resumed classes but still has not fully returned to school. Although she continues to have headaches, they aren't as bad. "I've learned a lot about concussions in the past year—they can happen to anyone, anytime, and can happen during any event," says Kelley. "It's hard to explain to people that I got my concussion playing volleyball because it isn't considered a 'contact sport.' Concussions can happen to someone riding a bike, playing football, or even walking down the hallway at school. Everyone reacts differently and symptoms can follow you around forever. More people need to be aware of this silent epidemic."

Kelley is now a Survivor Speaker for BIA-MA. As she continues to heal from her concussions, she raises awareness of this 'silent epidemic' to her peers, coaches, teachers, and other athletes. Visit her Facebook page, "Concussion Awareness and Compassion."

Update on Kelley's progress: August 2012

Provided by Kelley's mother, Amy Linn

June and July were restful months for Kelley. She finished her school classes with her tutor and began to feel better. Her headaches diminished greatly in July. August has been her most pain-free month since last September. She has had some headaches, but they have been minor and have only lasted a day or so. She was finally able to "live" this past month. We were able to take a short trip to Maryland to visit with good friends and she was able to be an assistant teacher in Vacation Bible School.

She has made some new friends and has been able to hang out with them and actually go to a few movies (with her earplugs in). None of those things would have been possible even a month or two earlier due to the loud noises, light, and motion issues.

Kelley met with her neurologist and was again reassured that she is on the mend. As she begins school, she is nervous about whether she will be able to consistently function in the school environment. As this is also the beginning of volleyball season and volleyball was her passion, she also is dealing with the grief of not playing the sport that she loves.

I am consistently amazed at Kelley's perseverence and maturity through all of this. I pray as this new year begins, that she is able to complete her academic work, and again, have a 'normal' teenage life... what ever that may look like, as long as it is pain free!


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