Bethel sophomore ‘comes to terms’

Muras says 14 concussions ‘strengthened my faith as much as they’ve made me question God.’

By Rachel Gmach | Royal Report

Megan Muras cried out in pain as the basketball shanked off the backboard and directly into the back of her head. She fell to the ground in pain, both physically and emotionally, as she feared this moment would be the inevitable end to her basketball career. The hit resulted in the fourth of 14 concussions that Muras, a sophomore at Century High School in Rochester, Minnesota at the time, would incur before age 19.

Muras spent three months recovering from concussion No. 4, of which she remembers virtually nothing. Eventually she was able to go back to basketball. Her doctor continued to clear her to play.

“He told me (the pain) was all in my head,” Muras recalls.

And so Muras continued to play the game. She was playing on a traveling team at the time and had beaten out all the other starters.

“I had established myself on the team,” she tells, “It’s important in basketball to do that.”

Information from www.DoSomething.Org. Graphic by Rachel Gmach.

Muras’ team played a game against a city team when she and an opponent both lunged for the ball. Muras cringed as the knee of the opposing player came up and hit her straight in the head. She tried to swallow her pain, get up and play the rest of the game, but couldn’t. She was done with basketball.

Muras had been trying to perfect her game her whole life.

“Whatever I do I want to be the best,” she said, “so I worked until I was.”

Her dedication to the game caught the attention of college scouts from a young age and Muras was on their radar since eighth grade.

“Megan excelled at basketball and was frequently complimented by officials and opposing coaches,” her mother, Heather Muras, said.

All throughout her basketball career she had planned on playing into college and worked hard that so she would get into a D1 or D2 school.

“I always wanted to go to the U(niversity of Minnesota),” Muras said. “I had always kind of counted on that.”

After so many concussions, however, her life changed. She endured frequent migraines, and Muras, who used to thrive most in social situations, found herself unable to socialize.

“One thing I don’t think people realize about concussions is how much it affects you socially,” she tells. “Like I was always really social and kind of a smart-ass you know? But (after my concussions) I just couldn’t keep up with conversations.”

For weeks after she received a concussion, Muras found herself spending her days locked in her room, where all she could do was try to sleep away her chronic pain.

“I spent a lot of time being angry at God,” she says. “My brother would sit and pray with me when I was too angry to pray.”

Because she couldn’t go out with her friends, they were unable to offer her the support she desperately needed.

“[My friends] weren’t able to be there for me like I needed them to be,” Muras recalls.

One exception was her childhood best friend, Jerika Tuohimaa, who helped her with homework and acted as a source of encouragement throughout Muras’ recovery.

Muras and childhood best friend Jarika Tuohimaa pose together for a photo uploaded to Facebook July 8, 2014, of the two at a party last summer. “She was my rock,” Muras says.

“The first month of so after each (concussion) was usually the worst,” Tuohimaa recalls. “She would be really slow at reacting to things and sometimes not remember what had just happened like 20 seconds ago. It was really hard to see her get frustrated with herself for not remembering things,” she said.

When Tuohimaa had to transfer during the middle of first semester their junior year of high school, however, Muras had to adjust to yet another loss.

“She was my rock,” Muras says, “and she wasn’t there anymore.”

She had lost her dream, her social life, and her best friend. As soon as she was able to walk without feeling faint, Muras joined the Century golf team. By her junior year, she was the captain, and remained so through graduation. When she graduated, Muras enrolled in Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Muras thrived at Luther, and became very close with her roommate Elizabeth Keegan. Things were finally looking up again, until her headaches worsened.

“I had hoped that when I went to college my headaches would be minimal, but that was not the case,” Muras writes in her account Luther: Chronic Pain and Happiness.

The pain was so intense she could hardly make herself eat, and ended up losing more than 10 pounds. Muras had to make a decision — stay at Luther and push through the pain, or take a semester off in hopes of healing. She chose to go home.

“I was upset because part of me wished that I was leaving Luther as well,” tells room mate Keegan, “Megan was really the only friend I knew at the time.”

“I had to take a break and let myself heal,” Muras says, “which I think is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.”

Muras withdrew from Luther her second semester and moved back home where she allowed her head time to recover before starting at Rochester Community and Technical College. Muras attended RCTC for one semester to get her generals done and received her 14th concussion in a near car accident during this time.

“I felt like they didn’t take school seriously there, and I did,” she recalls, “It wasn’t a very inspiring environment.”

Muras started her sophomore year at Bethel University this fall.

Muras and her brother Mitch study psychology together in the library last Wednesday. Mitch attends Bethel as a freshman. “I like (going to school with Megan) a lot,” he says. “It’s nice to have someone to go to when I need to talk or need familiarity.”

“One thing I’ve noticed about Bethel kids is that they really believe if you do what’s right you’ll have an easy life,” Muras says. “That’s not true and I know that first-hand. It makes me angry, like ‘Well then what do you think I did?’”

Muras doesn’t blame God for the concussions. She says she has used her situation as an opportunity for personal growth.

“I’ve learned to appreciate things so much more,” she says. “I’m more compassionate to those who are suffering because of the way I’ve suffered.”

Muras poses for her senior photos when she was a student at Rochester Century Senior High School. She was done with basketball indefinitely at this time. “ I think (questioning God) is important in (spiritual) growth,” Muras says. “You can’t just blindly accept everything.” (Photo by Fagan Studios.)

Muras still deals with the effects of her concussions daily and has yet to pass a concussion test. She endures migraines, anywhere from once a week to every day, which can last from four hours to four days and continue to take a toll on her socially.

“I’m always so worried when I’m in public that I’m going to get a migraine,” she says. “Just because it’s hard to be in pain and give energy to other people. I don’t want to be boring.”

To counteract the pain of her migraines, Muras receives 25 injections of Botox to her head every three months and is prescribed ADHD medications to help her focus.

“Due to Megan’s repeated concussions, she is at a higher risk for depression,” says her mother, “we need to be aware of changes in her mood that may indicate depression.”

Muras’ memory is slowly getting better, but is nowhere near how it used to be. Often, she can’t complete assignments due to her pain, but she always tries to stay on top of her work. One devastating result of Muras’ injuries is her probable inability to have children.

“It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with,” said Muras, who hopes to be healthy enough to have kids someday, even if she would have to adopt children.

“We have been inspired by Megan’s strength, courage and perseverance,” her mother said. “I do believe that God is with her and will redeem her suffering,” she said. “This ordeal has taught me to the importance of holding on to that truth on her good days and bad days.”

Muras studies for finals in Bethel University’s Hagstrom Center. She hopes to graduate with a psychology major & business minor. “Eventually, I want to work in rehabilitation,” she says.

Muras now studies at Bethel as a psychology major with a business minor, and plans to work in human resources until she can one day work in rehabilitation. She’s thinking about joining the BU golf team and continues to push herself every day, she says, to achieve greatness and fulfill God’s plan for her life.

“(My experiences) have strengthened my faith as much as they’ve made me question God,” she says. “I realized that there are certain things God doesn’t intervene in, because I think He wants us to need Him.”