My Story: Kiana Davis
After my first professional (indoor) track and field season in 2018, just completing college (Dec 2017), I slipped in ice and my head hit a concrete ramp leaving a basketball game. What started off as embarrassment and trying to giggle it off, I realized my balance was compromised because I fell again walking to my car. When I got to my car, I realized I didn’t remember how to drive, so I called a friend, who took me home and told me to go to sleep. After waking up vomiting and confused as to where I was, I ended up in the hospital, soon to find out I had a traumatic brain injury. I woke up the next morning with slurred/slowed speech and ringing ears, which was getting progressively worse. Unable to function in regular activities, such as showering and cooking on my own, my parents put me on leave at work, and moved me home, for what we thought would be a few days to a few weeks. After months had passed, I had to say goodbye to my coach, sign off on my apartment, quit my job, and fully move home, as we realized this wasn’t going to be a short term injury. There were changes in my personality, speech, hearing, and emotional regulation, as well as needing to sleep for the majority of most days. As my day to day functioning began to progress, I had to face the fact that I wasn’t able to move around much without motion sickness and overheating in my body temperature, so I started to realize track might not be something I would be able to return to.
With time, I was able to begin working part time, and gradually full time, and slowly began exercising. Though my speech was progressing, my hearing loss also progressed. After a full year, I had gained about 40 pounds, and lost a lot of balance/ coordination. But I decided I was going to do whatever it took to get back to track. I knew in my heart it wasn’t time to hang up my spikes. I ended up slowly transitioning back into training and sport, throughout 2020, and made the Olympic trials finals in 2021. I came back that year and had jumped further than I jumped prior to my injury! Though I was seemingly progressing, the following year started resulting in health complications such as daily nausea, seizures, sleep walking/disturbances, and random loss of muscle control and coordination (including peeing my pants at practice on multiple occasions). We had to reanalyze if sport was going to be beneficial to my health in the long run. I was in and out of the hospital throughout 2022-2023, working with neurologists and specialists, but I continued my training. I had to switch events from jumping to running to give my brain and spinal cord a rest, and have continued training to this point, but am currently training for the 2024 Olympic trials in hopes to compete on the Olympic team.
My goal in sharing my story is to raise awareness, for loved ones surrounding TBI survivors (after learning all the “what not to do’s” with family members, friends and coaches). And I want to empower people who feel limited. I learned that this process takes time and grace, and that progression is better than perfection. That some parts of this process feel embarrassing, and I felt misunderstood very often dealing with emotional regulation and realizing that I now learn a bit differently than I did before. I wear hearing aides and am sometimes limited in certain ways, but I have learned to adapt and be patient. And ultimately, I learned that I did not have to give up on dreaming because of my TBI. While I realize there are many varying levels and situations, I am very fortunate to be able to return to sport. Though it has come with many ups and downs, progression and regression, and battles and I want to continue to overcome to encourage and inspire others in their journeys.