ASC teacher Kristen Witt trusted her gut, no bandage necessary


Sapir Zachary

ASC teacher Kristen Witt returned to school after a second week away at Cognitive FX concussion rehabilitation center in Utah. Witt graduated from in-person rehab and is back to work.

On her daily trip home during lunch to consult with construction workers in 2010, ASC teacher Kristen Witt was T-boned by a vehicle going around a trash truck. Witt had been hit twice while turning onto Clayton Road. As a result, 12 years later, Witt still struggles with sensory, auditory and processing issues. 

Since the crash, Witt has experienced various symptoms, some of which got increasingly worse. 

“I started noticing things like I couldn’t read, I couldn’t concentrate,  I couldn’t focus and couldn’t retain information. That was really hard because as a pretty avid reader, I did not have that outlet anymore,” Witt said.

Despite noticing symptoms and advocating for herself, Witt was refused medical attention and was told nothing was wrong for a decade. Witt says she felt discouraged from opening up about her post-crash experiences and seeking treatment.

“I went to the doctor, and I was like, ‘hey, something’s wrong up here; this is not fine.’ I kept telling him that for years, and he would not listen to me and kept telling me everything was fine. [I’ve been] told I’m pretty much crazy because I think all these things are wrong with me.  I’m not a hypochondriac. [So] I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to talk [to a specialist],’” Witt said.

Witt’s husband, Aaron, read a book called, The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.Upon his reading, he urged her to attend the  Cognitive FX rehab center mentioned in the book.  He convinced her to speak with a specialist after the lack of proper attention from previous medical professionals. Witt took her husband’s advice and made the phone call.

“It’s huge to have someone tell you you’re not crazy because they don’t see what’s going on. It was really nice to finally have somebody validate what I was feeling. My first experience was amazing,” Witt said.

After her phone consultation,  Witt agreed to attend an in-person concussion rehab treatment in Utah. A regular Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) showed nothing wrong with Witt, but upon arriving at rehab, they did a functional MRI, revealing and confirming her struggles with vision, memory, information retention and auditory processing. A functional MRI tests how well your brain functions; the higher you score on the MRI, the worse your concussion is. The baseline score is at 0, and anywhere from 0 to .75 is in good shape. Between 1.5 to 2.25 is considered in the red zone, where a concussion needs lots of attention. Anything above 2.25 was very concerning. 

A graphic explaining what a biomarker value from a functional MRI means for the severity of a concussion. (Graphic by Madi Michajliczenko)

“I scored a 2.69. The guy in my group who had to leave the NFL scored a 2.78.  That made me very nervous.  When I left the first time, I was in the green with a .36, which took a lot of work, but it was so worth it,” Witt said. “When I left the second time, I was at -.12. This was awesome. Not only did my cognitive function improve, but my memory and attention did as well, which was the goal.”

Each day during her stay, Witt says Cognitive FX  pushed her to the point of mental exhaustion.  But, according to Witt, this helped her achieve long-lasting results and continuous progress.

“It was a lot of hard work. It was from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with a different therapist every hour,” Witt said. “I had a cognitive therapist, a neuro therapist, a physical therapist and a sensory motor therapist, all day long.”

Following the first trip, Witt began to see significant improvements after two months and even stronger results two months after her return from her second stay.

“I had to let my brain know, ‘hey, it’s okay to work this hard.’ The greatest lesson, not only from rehab but also from a concussion, is that just because you don’t have a bandage or crutch or cast, doesn’t mean there’s not other stuff going on,” Witt said.  “You should always trust your gut.  You know you better than anyone else, so no matter what anyone else says keep persevering until you get the answers you are looking for.”