"Sending love and compassion out into the world is the most important aspect to being human."

While under anesthesia during a routine knee surgery, Jacqueline Whitney suffered a significant brain injury. With her academic and athletic futures on hold, Jacqueline decided to create a blog to share her experience and use her voice for good.

Mark it down. This girl is going to change the world!

Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.

Jacqueline Whitney: My name is Jacqueline Whitney, I am 18 years-old and I’ve grown up in a small town called New Hope, PA. I am one of four children. I have two older sisters and a younger brother. I’ve always been a competitive person in absolutely everything I do. If I feel like I didn’t do my best, that’s not good enough for me. I love challenging myself and seeing results in my hard work.

You played several sports growing up. Which one was your favorite and did you plan on playing sports in college?

Growing up, Track and Field and Volleyball were my two main sports. Volleyball was my passion. I planned on playing D1 in college.

Your volleyball career caused you to have several surgeries. After one surgery in particular, you didn't feel quite like yourself. Can you tell us about that?

When I returned to school following the final knee surgery, I quickly recognized something was gravely wrong. I was not able to process any of the information I was learning, and even reading for just 15 minutes left me exhausted and with a headache. I’ve always loved to read but could not without feeling exhausted and with a headache.

How did you discover you had a brain injury from the surgery and do doctors know what happened?

Testing revealed that I had suffered a significant brain injury during the final knee surgery. Although you could not tell anything was wrong by talking to me, my ability to perform left brain activities was very poor. It requires the left brain to give meaning to words on a page, to problem-solve, and to perform even the most basic academic activities. My left brain had been shut down. Doctors believe it was chemical injury from anethesia.

You decided to drop out of high school. Was that a difficult decision?

It was the hardest decision of my entire life. I didn’t want to make that decision. I was frustrated, confused, and angry. Years of effort came to nothing, and in one day my dreams were shattered.

What has been the biggest challenge living with your brain injury?

The biggest challenge has been the fatigue and emotional fluctuations. I was always the happiest, most spontaneous girl before my injury. I still am an overall happy girl, but I deal with depression/anxiety/panic attacks now. The fatigue has also been frustrating. I become very tired from overstimulation. Most days I have to take at least one nap.

You created a blog to share your experience with others called How has that been helpful?

Creating a blog has been the best form therapy for me.. I originally started it for that main reason. I noticed writing out my feelings and experiences made the process a little bit easier. I told myself, if I put what I’m going through out there and it can help one person, then being that vulnerable is worth it.

Have you been able to connect with other people who may be struggling and is there one in particular who has helped you?

I’ve been able to connect with so many people. There are so many people who struggle with similar issues as me. I never knew this until I started my blog. It’s been very cool to hear I am not alone. All of my readers are so encouraging. I wouldn’t say there is one in particular. Everyone has helped me. The people who reach out to me are the reason I’m still doing this. They are helping me heal.

What's been your proudest moment since launching the blog and opening up about your journey?

I would say my proudest moment was when I got to share my story with Teen Vogue.

What are your dreams for the future?

Change the world.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love photography. One of my favorite things to do is take my camera outside and explore.

What advice would you give girls today?

Be yourself, no matter what. Embrace who you are. Be gentle with yourself. Life isn’t always going to be easy, but if you are secure in who you are, the process won’t be as complicated. Sending love and compassion out into the world is the most important aspect to being human. Success isn’t measured by the job you have or money, but instead success is doing the best you can at anything you do. If you did your best, that is success. Tell yourself you’re beautiful everyday... because you are.