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Koriander Bullard

April 27, 2024
Koriander Bullard

From October of 1994 to April of 1995, I suffered four concussions in under six months from school bullying.

I moved around several times growing up, and in 1994 I was enrolled in Marie V. Duffy Elementary in Dover, New Jersey for the second grade. I was bullied extensively because I am mixed race and because I was a bookworm.

The first three concussions, my pediatrician didn’t take seriously. He believed that concussions were “just silly brain bruises” and I was scolded by the doctor and by school faculty for being “weak” when I had troubles with migraines, when I spoke up about the abuse and when I needed time off from school.

The worst concussion was in April of 1995. I was beaten from the playground to the parking lot. I was punched and kicked by kids who had been left back enough years to be shaving, and when it was over, my head was propped up on a rock, so I could watch the clock and see how long it would take an adult to find me.

20 minutes.

When the custodian came to get me at the school’s request, she refused to help me up. She swore at me as I tried to pull myself off of the concrete, but walking was a chore. I made it up to the school building before I had to start leveraging my body, leaning against the bricks. I made it only to the door where I threw up and blacked out.

The vice principal revived me long enough to walk me to the nurse’s office, where I again threw up and blacked out.

The next few hours are a haze to me. I remember the nurse crying on the phone to my mother. I remember my mom taking me home. I remember throwing up an after-school snack and screaming. It felt like there was a hot drill going through my brain. I remember my mom rushing me to the E.R. When I started to calm down after my X-ray and scans, the doctor looked at me and asked me if I remembered the license plate of whatever truck hit me. When I and my mother told him this was the result of bullying, he said “That explains the footprint bruise on your back.” My mother screamed as he lifted my shirt, revealing an adult-sized shoe print on my back. I had a grade two concussion, deep spinal bruising and I almost lost my kidney. He got in my face and told me not to go to sleep for 72 hours, or I would die of a stroke. Not words an eight-year-old wants to hear, mind you.

Physically, I was useless. My mother had to help me in the bathroom for two weeks, because I could not care for myself. I was in severe pain from my head to my legs. The act of just lifting my arms made my head pound. I couldn’t talk, cry, feed myself. Nothing. The worst was watching my little brother cry. He knew someone had “broken his sister” and he couldn’t figure out what happened.

After the initial 72 hours, I was able to go to sleep. I began having vivid, strange dreams. Some of these I would turn into my book series Ki-Chan: Demon Hunter as an adult, but they felt real after that last concussion. Even upon waking up, I had a harder time telling what reality I was in than normal. I could taste and smell in my dreams and always, I was either fighting grotesque demons or needing to be saved from them. I saw horrid visions in my nightmares that I never had before.

After my last concussion, my mother filed paperwork for me to be homeschooled.
For the next three years, I had unusual anger spells. I was angry at the school system for failing to protect me. I was angry at my parents for allowing me to be repeatedly injured to the point of hospitalization. I was angry at the state for fighting my mom on allowing me to be homeschooled. Until I was officially homeschooled, I started fighting back at school. I was no longer afraid of punishment for punching the students that put me in the E.R. It scared me how comfortable I was with retaliation. Even at eight, I knew this was abnormal behavior. When puberty hit early the following year, the anger intensified. Snapping back at adults, especially when they were rude or acting racist towards my mom was now commonplace behavior for me.

Every doctor dismissed me. The adults just said I “had a bad attitude” and felt free to name-call me, especially with female-specific slurs.

When I was 26, I had a CAT scan to figure out the cause of my migraines. The doctor for that scan showed me that although my brain had mostly healed from the concussions, I had one dark spot on my brain that remained, a patch of tissue that was darker in color, showing exactly where I landed on the pavement in that fight.

It wasn’t until I was 34 that my primary care physician and my therapist formally diagnosed me with PTSD stemming from the concussions. Until then, I had to deal with the nightmares, the flashbacks and the mood swings alone, while being chastised when I showed any form of negative emotion.

Today, I’ve elected to remain in therapy. I still have intense migraines, but I’ve been better with mood swings.

The school was bought out in 1999. and the new owners installed a fantastic anti-bullying policy that much of New Jersey has since implemented, ensuring that future children don’t go through what I did.

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