Essendon AFLW star Jessica Wuetschner has revealed the full toll of the lightning strike three years ago that she says “ruined my life.”
Wuetschner was 27 at the time, and playing for the Brisbane Lions, when the crane she was holding was struck by lightning as she unloaded a ship on the docks in Queensland.
It was just weeks before the start of the 2020 AFLW season.
“A storm just starts rolling in, and it is pouring with rain, I mean like torrential Queensland pour, and the wind is like 60ks an hour, blowing through, it’s like needles to the face,” Wuetschner said in a TikTok video.
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“I say to the guy who’s working with me, ‘We should not be working right now, it is too bad of a storm, to be out right now,’ but me being just me, little stevedore not in charge, just does what I’m told.”
She said a “big bang, clap zzz” signified the moment the lightning hit the pole she was holding.
“When this happened, I saw big, bluey white flashes go up my arms, and then I kind of like, from there, just sort of fell to the ground,” she explained.
“I was like lucky not to be physically affected, 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.
“Saving grace to my life but not so much my mental health.”
Wuetschner said she thought she was going to die, before being taken to hospital.
“After about three hours they discharged me, at about 5.30am-ish… I walked out of the hospital with no shoes, soaking wet, no way to get home, no family, none of my friends were answering their phone. I had to get in a taxi soaking wet, by myself, to get home.”
She was back in hospital two weeks later after an adverse reaction to anti-anxiety medication.
“It was a really scary time and that’s when we sort of came to the conclusion I needed to go on antidepressants to help manage anxiety,” she said.
A two-time All-Australian, Wuetschner was a member of Brisbane’s 2021 AFLW premiership-winning side. She joined Essendon in 2022.
But she conceded the anxiety still causes significant issues for her.
“I’m scared to leave the house some days still. I used to travel the world, (but) I couldn’t even think about travelling now. I couldn’t think about leaving anywhere that’s not in my safe zone, in my safe place,” Wuetschner said.
“I’m scared about eating certain things just in case I have an allergic reaction, I’m scared of bugs, I’m scared of any kind of medications that aren’t familiar, I’ll have basically paracetamol and that’s about it. I don’t really like to leave the house still, I still struggle with that a lot just in case something happens. It’s always those what ifs.
“So, that’s kind of what I’ve been struggling with … that’s why it’s ruined my life and I feel like a different person.”
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