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AN Unexpected setback

Share your story series: Unexplained illness, tested faith, & new found gratitude

Life is full of curveballs. The lesson behind them is often found in the reaction you have to them.

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” - Matthew 6:34.


My name is Katie Bahn & This is my story

DI Soccer Player | Austin Peay State University

People always say that setbacks are only excuses for a greater comeback. This is true, yet so much easier said than done. 

My name is Katie Bahn, I am 21 years old, and am a Division I goalkeeper at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. I have played soccer since I was 5 years old, but I have been a goalkeeper since age 10. I stand by this religiously: goalkeeping is a sport within the sport. Only my ‘GK Union’ can fully understand the art of goalkeeping, both the mental and physical demands of the position and the sometimes unforgiving nature it has. 

This describes the position all without discussion of injury. Add flying through the air and throwing your body face-first into people’s feet, doing everything your body innately tells you not to do — Injury is bound to happen. As for me and my career, I have dealt with numerous injuries; one surgery, a few torn ligaments, stress fractures, you name it. But, nothing would have prepared me for my most recent injury—absolutely nothing. 

What Happened?

I am writing this blog post on April 2, 2024. I first started to feel sick on Thanksgiving Day, 2023. “Sick”, as in probably the worst sore throat I have ever experienced, with a slight fever, and some body aches. But really, nothing too worrisome. My sore throat is gone a few days later, but something is still off. My left ear is hurting a little, but I shrug it off and don’t make mention of it. That Saturday morning, I woke up to use the bathroom and accidentally walked straight into the wall. It seemed my balance was off because it happened not just once, but a few times as I walked around my room getting dressed. I couldn’t even balance on one foot to put my pants on. It was so weird, a feeling I had never felt before. But still, I shrugged it off and continued with my day. 

I drove back to college that day, about an hour and a half drive. A few days later, my balance issues worsened. Tuesday, November 28, I planned to work out that morning then drive to Nashville to pick up my roommate from the airport. Everything was normal until I literally fell to the ground while warming up. I told my strength and conditioning coach, Mike Kremer, that I didn’t know what was happening but that I was getting dizzy, and my balance and depth perception were really off. With him informed, I ended my workout early and headed to the Nashville Airport. 

Not five minutes into my drive, I took a slight right turn too sharp and smacked my car into the curb, breaking my axle. I called my parents and wondered if all my recent problems had anything to do with what just happened. I was confused how I managed to be so complacent to run my car straight into the curb. While on the phone with my mom, I mentioned that I had trouble with my balance and didn’t know what was happening. Since she wasn’t with me, and there wasn’t much that could be done at the time, she told me to keep an eye on it. 

Later that night while taking a shower, I bent down and just continued to fall, unable to catch myself. I almost took the curtain down, too. That is when I called my mom, and had my roommate Lindsey take me to the emergency room. 

While in the emergency room, they did the tests they needed, including a CT scan of my brain, all coming back normal. I was thankful for this, but it didn’t give me any answers. Since nothing was showing on the scans, they diagnosed me with vertigo, gave me a prescription, and sent me back home with the instructions that if anything got worse, to come back. I was back in the hospital less than a week later.

I woke up Sunday morning with little speech control. I would try to speak and my words slurred, so much so that Lindsey could barely understand me. This whole journey had been just over a week and I had been calm throughout, however, this started to worry me. That being said, I am of solid faith and figured this would eventually resolve itself. And stupidly, I again did not tell my parents what was happening. My parents found out that I was having trouble with my speech because my dad called me the following Tuesday and heard it himself. Within two hours, I was on my way back to the hospital. 

Slurred speech is not a symptom of vertigo, and even though I had been taking the medication given to me, my speech was now impaired and my ability to walk has now been affected. I was nearly to the point of being unable to walk without falling over or running into whatever was in front of me. Once I started walking, I could not stop myself. 

I was admitted to the hospital for three days and two nights. I vividly remember overhearing some of the doctors talking about how they were concerned I was stroking out, had a tumor in my brain, or possibly meningitis. This was terrifying. Some of my best friends came to visit me in the hospital; Alison, Mac, Lindsey, Kirsten, you do not know how much it meant to me to see you guys during one of my scariest and darkest times…Thank you. 

During my time there, one of the tests I had to do was a lumbar procedure. This entailed doctors sticking a massive needle in my back and draining spinal fluid to test for meningitis. After this test, I was in excruciating pain all night. I was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon, and they concluded my diagnosis to be vestibular neuritis, an infection of the inner ear that caused damage to my frontal lobe, affecting my motor skills, balance, speech, etc. I was thankful to finally have a diagnosis, but still unsure why my back was hurting so badly from the procedure done a few days prior. 

From that Thursday until Saturday, I slowly deteriorated. My back was killing me, every time I stood up I experienced the worst headache of my life, and my ears would pop so painfully that I felt like I just had to put my head down. The only time I was somewhat comfortable was when I was lying down. On top of all of this, I threw up everything I tried to eat. For three days, I could not keep a single meal down (sorry to Travis for throwing up in your car).

By Saturday morning, my body was shutting down. My mom took me back to the hospital again, and  thank God she did. When we got there, the doctors quickly determined that I was experiencing a complication from the lumbar procedure, and that I was leaking spinal fluid from my back to the rest of my body. This explained the headache and my ears popping every time I stood up; the fluid in my body was moving around.

They fixed the leak in my back with a blood patch, and finally, I was headed back home. My body was defeated, exhausted, but thankful. I had little to no motor skills, couldn’t walk, and couldn’t talk. At this point, I still hadn’t told my coach, I was not even thinking about soccer; I was just focused on staying alive. 

Since December 14, 2023, I have been working relentlessly five times a week with my doctors, Jason Hulme and Peyten Davis, in vestibular physical therapy, relearning to stand, walk, and talk again. I also had to practice and relearn to write again, working on spelling and mental math skills. I returned to school at the end of January 2024, continued with my athletic trainer, Sooji Berthiaume, with this rehab schedule, and still went home once a week to see my doctor. I worked on my footwork, balance, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, depth perception, and light reception. 

A New Perspective on Life

To list all of those things that I accomplished out loud, it seems insane. And honestly, it is insane. But, that was only half the challenge. The other half was the mental battle. I still struggle to wrap my head around what happened to me. My life had been flipped upside down so fast. There was a moment in December when I reflected and asked myself, What did I do to deserve this? Why me? I am a person of strong faith, and I found myself  MAD at God. I was confused, hurt, and so frustrated. I was tired of attending physical therapy every day to practice standing up, and frustrated that I was genuinely exhausted from doing that simple task. I began to spiral fast.

I wasn’t sure I would ever walk normally again, let alone play soccer. That unknown was scary. Amid my sorrow and crying, my brother called me. This phone call might’ve saved my life, at the very least for sure the trajectory of it. My brother is my hero, best friend, and biggest supporter. He helped me realize that being sorry for myself was not going to help anything. What’s happened, happened, it can’t be changed; the only thing I could do is control how I was going to respond now. That December, within two weeks, I was bedridden and immobile. Months later, after pushing through brain and nerve damage and teaching my body to adapt to its new functioning, I stepped on the field again for my first practice, March 25, 2024. I could not be more proud of myself. This is still just the beginning, but I am pushing through every single day. 

I now have a complete shift on my perspective on life. I used to have days when I would selfishly complain that I didn’t want to practice, that I was too tired, my body hurt, etc. When I get those urges, I have a whole new outlook now. I am so thankful I get to practice again. I am so grateful I am not in pain anymore. As insane as it may sound, I am grateful for this whole experience. Of course, it sucked. Bad. But it also taught me life lessons that can’t be taught any other way. Some day, soccer will end. The reminders of what I went through to get to where I am today will not. 

I am a walking testimony of how God works in mysterious ways. He threw the biggest life curveball He could at me, testing my faith, determination, will, and strength. As horrible as this situation was, I have learned to simply be grateful. Every. Single. Day. I tell myself on a daily basis: take it one day at a time. I still have a long way to go, but, I am so proud of myself for making it this far.

1,452 views5 comments



Amazing testimony of faith in God... its not what we go thru but how we go thru it...Thank you, Katie, for letting your light shine!!!



This is beautiful - thank you for your message and thank you for sharing.



Katie, Thank you for taking the time to share your incredibly difficult experience. Your story bears a critical message for all of us. So up-lifting. Bless you. Marlene Branson



What a strong, beautiful young woman. Your family certainly rallied around you. So brave! Sending prayers for you to continue to heal physically and emotionally.



Wow! Great story Katie! Praying for you:)

-Debra smith

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