‘I feel like a different person’: AFLW star opens up on trauma from lightning strike | AFLW

AFLW star Jessica Wuetschner has revealed the terrifying physical and mental toll of the 2020 crush that “ruined my life” and nearly derailed his football career.

It was two weeks from the start of the 2020 AFLW season when Wuetschner, then 27 and playing for the Brisbane Lions while working as a longshoreman, was struck by lightning as the crane quest she was driving unloading a ship at the docks in Queensland.

“A storm is just starting to come down, and it’s pouring down, I mean like torrential downpour from Queensland, and the wind is like 60k per hour, blowing through, it’s like needles in your face,” Wuetschner recalled in a TikTok video.

“I tell the guy that works with me, ‘We shouldn’t be working right now, it’s too bad to be out right now’, but me being just me, little tank top not in charge, just do this We said.”

Wuetschner, now 30, said she heard a “big bang, clap zzz” as lightning struck the pole she was holding. “I saw big bluish white lightning bolts shoot up my arms and then felt like I was falling to the ground from there.”

Wuetschner said she feared for her life before being rushed to hospital.

“After about three hours they let me out, around 5:30 a.m….I walked out of the hospital with no shoes on, soaked, no way to get home, no family, none of my friends were answering the call. phone. I had to get into a soaked taxi, all alone, to get home.

But his odyssey is far from over. Wuetschner was back in hospital two weeks later after an adverse reaction to anti-anxiety medication. .

Having missed the opening month of the 2021 season, Wuetschner has re-established herself as a key cog in Brisbane’s race to win their first premiership. In the 18-point Grand Final victory over Adelaide, she scored two goals. But although she was able to continue her career in the AFLW, the anxiety and PTSD suffered from the accident still cause her significant problems.

“I was lucky not to be physically affected,” Wuetschner said. “I was wearing rubber gloves and rubber shoes, and I was suspended in the air, which means the electricity didn’t go through me, which is my saving grace.”

But she clarified: “Saving grace for my life but not so much for my sanity.”

A double All-Australian, Hobart-born Wuetschner was a gifted hockey and cricket star before making her debut for Brisbane in the 2016 AFLW season. In 2022, Wuetschner announced she would be stepping away from the AFLW to focus on his mental health. Brisbane said they would “continue to give Jess our full support”, but in May Wuetschner was dropped from the list. She joined Essendon the following month.

But while his career continued, his struggle with the aftermath of that fateful day in 2020 continued. “I’m afraid to leave the house for a few more days,” she explained. “I used to travel the world, (but) I couldn’t even think of traveling now. I couldn’t think of going anywhere that wasn’t in my safe zone, in my safe place.

“I’m afraid to eat certain things just in case I have an allergic reaction.

Wuetschner said his issues began to improve after working with psychologists, but others remained. “I’m afraid of insects. I am afraid of any type of drugs that are unfamiliar. I’ll basically have paracetamol and that’s about it. I don’t really like leaving the house yet, I still have a hard time with it just in case something happens. It’s always these and ifs.

“So that’s kind of what I’m struggling with…that’s why it’s ruined my life and I feel like a different person.”

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