FBI Reamed by Concussed Trainee

     ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A woman’s promising FBI career crumbled before she got out of training because the bureau failed to treat her concussion, she claims in Federal Court.
     Rishann Nielson, of Cedar Hills, Utah, says she arrived at Quantico three years ago in peak physical condition.
     The former valedictorian of Brigham Young University had aced most of her tests at the FBI National Academy and was also “doing well in her physical tactics and firearms course,” according to the complaint she filed on Aug. 24.
     Three months into her training, however, Nielson allegedly suffered repeated blows to the head from a much bigger classmate in her July 27, 2012, defensive-tactics class.
     Nielson says nearly lost consciousness before the class even ended and that she had a lingering headache for the next few days.
     When Nielson finally sought treatment at the academy’s health services on Aug. 2, a physician assistant diagnosed her with a “mild concussion” but cleared her for full duty, the complaint alleges.
     That same day, Nielson had four hours of firearms training. She said the class involved putting a shotgun “directly against her face,” exposing her head to the kickback force from gunfire.
     “Each shot sent pain through her head,” the complaint says.
     Nielson went to bed after “firing a shotgun for three hours” but “woke up with excruciating pain and pressure in her head.”
     Excruciating pain coupled with nausea, dizziness and light sensitivity sent Nielson back to Health Services the next day, according to the complaint.
     A doctor then sent her to the emergency room, where she underwent a CT scan and was allegedly diagnosed with “closed head injury without loss of consciousness” and “concussion without loss of consciousness.”
     Nielson says she eventually went home to Utah to recuperate.
     Despite continual medical treatment, Nielson says her conditions have not improved. “Currently, Ms. Nielson is not able to perform any kind of work,” the complaint states.
     David Sheldon, an attorney for Neilson in Washington, said in an interview that “there’s not a lot of expected recovery” for his client.
     “You’re looking at a young, vibrant, beautiful individual whose lost all enjoyment of her life – personally and professionally,” Sheldon added.
     The complaint says Nielson could have made a full recovery if the bureau pulled her out of training when she first started showing symptoms.
     “Because the Health Care Providers at FBIAHS failed to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to restrict Ms. Nielson from full duty and instruct her to have rest [on Aug. 2], she was assigned to the firearms training program and suffered a second brain injury,” the complaint states. “It is the second brain injury cause irreversible damage to Ms. Nielson.”
     The FBI denied Nielson’s claim in March under the Federal Tort Claims Act for “negligent medical care and treatment” at the FBI Academy of Health Services, the complaint says.
     A representative for the government declined to comment on Nielson’s lawsuit or the bureau’s concussion policy.
     Nielson’s attorney Sheldon criticized the bureau’s failure to exercise “prudent caution” in this case.
     “I think it’s a real tragedy,” Sheldon added. “For her and her family, it has had devastating consequences.”
     Nielson seeks damages for medical negligence. She is also represented by Edward Rodriguez Jr. in Fairfax, Va.

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