News

Concussion story bonds families that once felt alone

Written by Brandon Stoneburg/Hanover Evening Sun | Dec 14, 2015 10:59 AM
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Stacy Reed (L) and her daughter Kristin (R) (Photo: Shane Dunlap, The Evening Sun)

(Littlestown) -- Months ago, Kristin Reed didn't want to talk to anyone about her condition, preferring to hide her agonizing headaches and dizziness from the world. Her seemingly endless physical therapy after six concussions was best kept as a secret among family, she thought.

Classmates who didn't understand what the 15-year-old was going through called her stupid because they couldn't see her invisible injury, she said.

Now, after stepping out of the shadows and sharing her story, Kristin is being called an inspiration by young women like Tianna Arentz and Izzy Sementilli.

Tianna, a 16-year-old Spring Grove native who sustained a concussion in a snow mobile accident, read Kristin's story and messaged her on Facebook, yearning for a companion who might understand what she's going through.

"I knew she could probably help and she did," Tianna said. "She made me feel that someone else is feeling the same thing. We talk everyday now about the head injury stuff and about everything. She's been my best friend since then and she has stayed with me through everything. She's always there for me and I'm always there for her."

More than 350 miles away in upstate New York, the Sementilli family was going through a rough time. Their 11-year-old daughter, Izzy, had just sustained her third concussion.

The first of three came when Izzy fell back and hit her head after a kid pulled out her chair from behind in school as a prank.

"We thought she would get better and go back tap dancing, which was her passion," said Izzy's mother, Pola. "But it never happened. She would go watch practice still in hopes of getting better and returning but it never happened. She felt alone."

Izzy wanted to stay productive so she started baking cookies, better known as "Iznettes," a huge hit at the family's restaurant, Sementelli said.

But similar to Kristin, Izzy just wanted the physical therapy to end and life to return to normal.

In a poem she wrote for school titled "Physical Therapy Through the Seasons," Izzy said:

"Soon turns into another fall, crisp leaves in the air and pain in my back. Soon turns into another winter, snow falls and my neck is still hurting. Soon turns into spring, flowers bloom and sun shines, but my heart is sad. Soon turns into approaching a second summer of walking into the physical therapy room. I look around and keep praying... Soon, Izzy soon."

The family had seen reports on TV of long-term affects multiple concussions could have on a person, especially one as young as Izzy.

Looking for guidance, they Googled "multiple concussions" expecting pages of medical reports and essays to appear as they had the last several times the family had turned to the Internet for answers.

But the first thing that popped up was an Evening Sun story about Kristin. As the family read through the story, they became emotional, Sementilli said.

They couldn't believe someone else was going through this nightmare, too.

"It's like someone wanted me to find that story," Sementilli said. "You feel like you're alone, but then you read that and it's like, 'Gosh, someone else is going through this too."

Sementilli emailed Kristin's mother, Stacy Reed, and they wrote back and forth about how they go through the same things.

About 20 people have sent emails or Facebook messages, Reed said, after Kristin's story spread to publications and websites in several states and even a health blog in Germany.

"We had a ton of responses from a lot of people who said their child is going through the same thing and wanted advice," Reed said. "We never expected the response from people to be at this level, but for Kristin's sake, I'm glad that it has."

After a recent scare during gym class when Kristin's heart rate soared and headaches worsened, her doctor suggested a change in medication, Reed said.

Something clicked, and for the first time since last January, Kristin went headache-free for a week, Reed said.

Clarity and relief from not being constantly nagged with a searing headache has allowed Kristin to at least temporarily laugh for the first time in a long time, she said.

The new friendships have helped too.

"I never imagined that people would think of me as an inspiration and change how they thought of me," Kristin said. "It feels amazing."


This article comes to us through a partnership between the Evening Sun and WITF.

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