Facing my new life after concussion

Last updated 09:21 02/06/2016

Petra Sullivan wants others to learn from her concussion experiences.

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I had my first concussion while playing hockey back in 2014.

I was knocked unconscious for about one minute before I was carried off the field, then after it was noticed that I was 'out of it', mum took me to after-hours.

I was monitored for six hours and sent home, after I was told all was okay and that I could play hockey next Sunday.

Thinking I had gotten off lightly, I went to school as normal and continued on, but by the Wednesday, I was extremely sick.

I had headaches, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to noise, unbalanced and not knowing where I was some of the time.

Petra Sullivan

Mum took me back to after-hours where I was told I shouldn’t be at school, watching TV, using laptops or phone and I needed to rest to relax my brain.

Because of the few days I had stressed my brain after the accident, I ended up having to go to a concussion clinic to regain some balance loss, and to overcome my sensitivity to noises and slow reactions.

It took two months before I could go back to school (I was year 12 at the time) and a total of six months before I was able to attend school every day for the required time.

This meant I couldn’t sit mock exams and struggled to study and retain information for NCEA exams and received modified grades. During the six months I went through cycles of being fine to being dizzy or saying weird things in sentences.

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I was always tired, even after half a day of school and my recovery would most likely have been quicker if I had rested in the following days after the accident.

It took a year to fully recover from this and being able to go back to playing sport.

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Because I looked fine, and there was no cast or stitches, people didn't realize how serious my injury was.

I am now 18 and at Canterbury University and have joined the cheerleading team, where I received my second concussion two weeks ago.

I’m a flyer and I was doing a basket stunt where I was dropped on my head and was unconscious for 30 seconds. This time I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance with a heart rate of 180bmp and followed by a rapid response car.

I can’t remember anything from the hospital other than having a lot of doctors and nurses around me, my clothes were cut off for monitors to be put on me and X-rays were taken to make sure my neck wasn’t broken.

I felt very dizzy and nauseous, but I was asked whether I wanted to stay the night or go home and be monitored every few hours and rest, so I choose to go home.

The next morning we had a phone call that an emergency ambulance was on its way as there was something a second look at the X-rays that doctors wanted to check so again I was off to hospital in an ambulance but fortunately there wasn’t anything wrong with my neck other than it obviously being sore.

Again I am only to rest and I haven’t been able to attend university since. 

Often I have asked for pets that are no longer with us or gotten ready for sports I haven’t played for months and talked nonsense, but to the naked eye I look fine and this is the danger of concussions.

I am suffering from headaches, tiredness and nausea.

I was told by the doctor I now have to make changes to my life and contemplate the risks of things in my life I do.

For example, I have to decide whether it is wise to go back to cheerleading and risk a third concussion. A third concussion would most likely mean permanent brain damage or being paralyzed due to the stresses of knocks to the head.

Being a very active and sporty person this is quite hard to accept, but I doubt I’ll ever pick up a hockey stick again. Next time I won't get off so lightly.

I don’t want to see other people taking these head injuries lightly, just beceause you “look fine”.

Concussions are extremely serious and you need to make the right decisions before it is too late.

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