Beauty queen advocates for greater concussion awareness

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 at 5:38 PM
Beauty queen advocates for greater concussion awareness by Shayma Musa

Jayden Moffa is many things: college student, daughter, beauty queen — but since her sophomore year of high school, she’s also been an advocate for baseline concussion testing. That’s because Moffa, who’s now a sophomore in college, was the victim of an undiagnosed concussion. 

“I’ve had two concussions,” Moffa said. “My first concussion started my sophomore year of high school; I was in a routine gym class and I ended up getting hit to the chin with a soccer ball. So, I went to the nurse and I had some redness, and she looked at it and said, ‘it’s okay, not a big deal, just go home, take a nap and let it rest off, and I listened.” 

Initially, Moffa said during her lecture on campus April 17, everything seemed fine, she went through the week and two more months and felt fine. 

“Two months in, I started having migraines, like to the point where I’m in the fetal position and rocking back and forth. An Advil won’t touch it, a Tylenol won’t touch it, nothing I’m doing is helping. My mom and I went to the doctor and he said: ‘Oh it’s hormonal, just shake it off and you’ll be fine. You’ll grow out of it.’ We agreed because we didn’t know any better. So, we listened, and we went home, and we just took care of things like we normally would.” 

It would be 14 months before Moffa knew that what she was experiencing was not in fact just a “hormonal shift.” 

“Six months after the hit, my vision started going. I couldn’t see out of my right eye; it looked like someone put a blurry piece of paper in front of my eye and then just didn’t remove it.” 

As her vision worsened, Moffa said that she and her mother sought the help of an eye doctor, who referred her to a specialist, who diagnosed her with a learning disability. 

“I was diagnosed with ocular motor dysfunction disability. Which means that I have issues with sentences. I’ll jump from sentence one to sentence four,” she explained. 

Moffa says that everything finally clicked after she was diagnosed with a concussion. All the symptoms she was experiencing — the headaches, learning disability and vision issues — stemmed from her concussion. 

Frustration was the unifying theme of Moffa’s speech. According to her, so many different medical specialists, educators and therapists bounced her around without realizing what was wrong. 

A concussion is caused when the brain rattles in the head and hits the skull due to a hit shaking the body or a hit to the head. Most concussions, termed mild-traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs), should heal within one to five weeks, according to Weill Cornell Medicine. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS), though, can impair a concussion patient long after the injury has healed. BrainSTEPS is a program funded through the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education. The program aims to train Pennsylvania schools to create educational plans for students following a brain injury. Currently, the program’s goal is to have a BrainSTEPS team in all 500 of Pennsylvania’s school districts. At the time of this article, there are currently 30 teams. Each team is made up of education professionals, medical rehabilitation specialists and family members. 

“I went from a 4.0 GPA, to a 2.3 GPA in the span of a year. I graduated high school by the skin of my teeth just because I was lucky to hold on to the little bit that I had in myself to keep going and pushing. I was placing a lot of blame on myself. I didn’t understand why my grades where slipping. I had to fight to get into a meeting with my principals, teachers, and psychologists to be on a 504 plan,” Moffa said. 

A 504 plan is a document that allows for modifications to the normal lesson plan for students with disabilities. 

“I didn’t look sick because concussions are invisible. I fought and fought and that was really frustrating because you have so many different people assuming so many different things about you when you don’t even know what’s wrong with you,” she said. 

Moffa’s case is the exception though, according to Carol Buckleitner, BrainSTEPS team leader at IU5. “From my understanding, most school nurses that I’ve crossed paths with have master level training. They’re good at looking at concussions and following protocol. Nine times out of 10 they will want to get a doctor involved,” she said at the event.

Moffa argued throughout her presentation that if baseline concussion tests are made mandatory and then paired with the physicals that students already go through to go to school, then the risk of students who are not athletes having to go through Moffa’s experience is reduced. 

The state of Pennsylvania doesn’t require baseline concussion testing, instead, it is the responsibility of the school per the Saftey in Youth Sports Act of 2011. Additionally, coaches are trained to identify concussions.

Funding, Moffa said, is not an issue because most schools already have the equipment for a concussion test to be performed if they have a sports program. 

Moffa is currently a college sophomore, and said although it’s been hard, she has worked at dealing with her symptoms: she has a planner for everything, she wears sunglasses while driving so the glare doesn’t hurt her eyes, and she makes sure to let professors know that she will need accommodations before it becomes an issue. 

This summer, Moffa will be competing for the title of Miss Pennsylvania 2018 in the Miss America pageant with the platform of “Raising Awareness about Concussions.” 

Despite her difficulties Moffa calls herself, “one of the lucky ones.” 

Shayma Musa is the voices editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

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