Feature: Concussion comeback for Katherine Potts

by Amanda Holland

“I woke up crying with my coach over me asking if my back was okay.”

Knowing she had fallen from Chop Chop, the horse that she would be riding for her second semester of her junior year at Cazenovia College, Katherine Potts was in severe pain.

“It felt like a fifty-pound brick landed on my head,” said Potts.

Riding since the age of four, and enduring numerous falls throughout her equestrian career, Potts knew “deep down” that this fall was different than the rest. Recovering the previous semester due to a fracture in her back that should have been healed 8 years ago, Potts was finally ready to ride again without injury.

“I had won Regionals and went to Semi-Finals in my sophomore year for the Western Equestrian Team at Cazenovia College, and my goal was to make Nationals for my junior year,” said Potts.

With her head throbbing, she was driven to Urgent Care where the doctor sent her to the emergency room to receive a CAT scan and X-Rays. While waiting at the hospital, her best friend Joanna emailed Potts’s advisor without her knowledge; within ten minutes of the email being sent he showed up as a guardian for Potts, for she was not in any condition to any decisions.

Following the orders of the doctor, only missing two days of class, and wearing sunglasses and earplugs, Potts still felt off. She went to St. Joseph’s Medical Center to meet with a doctor who worked very closely within the field of concussions.

This time, Potts was told to go home for two weeks and do nothing but sit in a dark room. Potts’s mom, Barbara Pelkey arrived that night to take her daughter home. Upon seeing Katherine she knew something was very wrong with her daughter.

(Photo: Katherine Potts)

“Her eyes were vacant. She was in a dark room, kind of out of it and close to tears, very emotional,” said Barbara.

While at home for those two weeks Potts cuddled with her dog Atlas. “She basically stayed on the couch and slept. She could not have any noise or light and she slept non-stop,” said Barbara.

After being away from Cazenovia for three weeks, Potts made her way back to school. Within weeks of being back, Potts got sick and was again sent home. This time, for the rest of the semester.

“I called the Dean of Academics and asked if it was okay to go home because at that point I was basically not going to any classes,” said Potts.

She battled throughout the summer, recovering from her concussion and working with her family. By mid-august she was assigned a 35-page paper, a 15-page paper and a poster presentation in order to make up for the work she missed. All due by the 15 of September.

Potts made her deadlines. She finished her undergraduate career in the spring of 2017, on schedule despite missing an entire semester of her collegiate career. The completion of “The West Versus The Rest”; The Evolution of Radical Islam Through the Presidencies of Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama, an 80 page thesis, poster presentation, and defense, showed that Potts was able to overcome the biggest adversity in her life.

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