As part of an ongoing series looking into the experiences of patients who have sustained brain trauma, we sat down with Ali Wallace, Miss Oregon 2015.
Note: Brain Trauma Foundation does not endorse any opinions or medical claims from Ali Wallace, and was not involved in her medical care or decisions.
READ ALI'S STORY, IN HER OWN WORDS:
I grew up dancing nearly my whole life. Once I got into high school, I wanted to continue to dance but also try something new. A friend of mine who was a dancer suggested we try out for the Cheer team, since it was similar to dancing. As cliche as it sounds, the thing I loved most about being on the cheer team was the friendships and memories I made with my teammates at all of our different competitions and team functions.
My TBI happened my freshman year of high school. was by myself practicing tumbling for competition in a dance studio where I was unsupervised. Being a freshman on the varsity cheer team was extremely hard to make and even harder to stay on. I was under a lot of stress to keep my spot for the rest of the season because of this so I was putting in extra work on my tumbling outside of practice. I decided to pull a skill I had never done before, in an environment that was not equipped for tumbling, with no supervision, which obviously didn’t end in my favor.
Ali described the after effects of the concussion she suffered during her tumbling injury.
I had no prior education of concussions and brain injuries until I was sat down by my doctor, and learned the severity and debilitating effects of these injuries.
During my recovery, I was unable to go to school, or participate in cheer practice and dance classes. I returned to school for half days after a month, then returned full time the following school year. It wasn’t until nearly a year after my injury that I could finally participate in cheer practice or dance again.
Throughout that year, I experienced a lot of depression from the TBI from the lack of involvement in all physical activity, and the social effects a TBI can have on you. I struggled to pass subjects in school that were once easy for me, and couldn’t understand why. Although that was one of the hardest years of my life, I am so grateful I had a well informed and concerned doctor who properly advised me during my recovery process.
The effects of a TBI stay with Ali to this day. She is now focused on trying to educate the public about the reality and effects of TBI.
Today I still struggle with a lot of lingering effects of my TBI. Some of those things include aphasia, depression, a speech impediment, impaired eye sight and depth perception, to name a few.
So many people think all cheerleaders do is stand on the sidelines of football and basketball games. Yes, cheerleaders will participate on the sidelines of sporting events but that is only a fraction of their sport. Cheerleading has some of the most catastrophic injuries when it comes to high school sports with increasing numbers as the sport continues to gain more popularity. The problem with both the unfortunate stigma, and reality of its injuries, is that people do not take injuries from cheer accidents seriously. There are fewer safety measures and precautions taken with this sport which can leave athletes suffering from TBI and spinal cord injuries, among others, with no idea and no treatment.
Ali closed with advice for others faced with a traumatic brain injury.
The two most important things for anyone with a TBI, or who has a loved one with a TBI, is to be patient and resilient. Recovering from a TBI can be a long and slow process. There were so many times where I became extremely frustrated and wanted to give up, but because of my family and friends, I was able rise above the obstacles of a TBI.