Although my comeback story is not complete, I would not be as far as I am today without my surgeon, Dr. David Anderson, and especially my physical therapist and “best friend”, Luke Cash. I am in the 9th inning of my recovery and am confident that I will end the game stronger than when I started.
My setback began the Sunday evening of August 5th, 2018, the night before club softball tryouts. My friends and I decided to play a game of 3 on 3 basketball in the Eagan league. While playing, I went up for a lay-up and came down and heard a “POP”. I fell down in pain, not knowing the journey I would endure. Later, I found out that I tore my ACL in my right knee. Devastating for a very athletic 13 year old girl, my journey ahead was going to last for 6 to 9 months or longer, and I was not sure if I could do it.
The day I heard I had torn my ACL was the toughest day of my life. However, within an hour of the news, all of my best friends hopped on their bikes and were at my house to just sit with me, watch movies and to just be there, as they knew how hard this was for me. I knew I needed surgery and I was scared, disappointed and sad. The next 10 days were filled with love and support from my family and friends and a lot of doctors appointments in between. The night before surgery I was very nervous and scared, not sure of what lay ahead of me.
On the day of surgery, I woke up early and got ready to head to TCO in Eagan, the day of the Vikings Training Camp scrimmage vs the Jaguars. Once there, I was brought into a room and they prepared me for surgery. I was comforted by the wonderful nurse who took such good care of me, reminding me that everything was going to be alright. Dr. Anderson came in and explained what was going to happen during surgery and then the next thing I remember was the nurse giving me water and my parents and big brother coming into see me.
Two days later I started my long comeback when I started physical therapy. When I met my physical therapist, Luke Cash, he introduced himself as my new “best friend”. I thought that was a little weird, but little did I know that he was right. He has become one of my best friends, big brother, biggest supporter, as well as my worst critic, but in a good way.
At first, physical therapy was boring, as all I was able to do was try to lift my leg and work on my range of motion. But as the weeks passed, I was able to do more and more. The day I was finally able to ditch my immobilizer was a great day, but the day I was able to walk out of TCO Eagan on my own without the crutches was spectacular. I even asked my mom if we could run them over with our truck, as I was so excited to be done with them and I never want to see them again!
As the months passed and many more therapy sessions under my belt, I slowly continued to improve and was able to start doing more and more. The day Luke tossed me a basketball and I was able to start to dribble and the day I went over to the Training HAUS and was able to start shooting, made my slow comeback start to feel a lot more bearable. I was finally starting to do a few small sports and activities, making me feel more like myself. Shortly after I got a basketball back in my hand I got the best news so far – Dr. Anderson told me that I could finally start to swing a bat. I was so excited to tell all my closest friends that I could finally start to slowly participate in the sport I love.
My comeback hit a slow setback when I had my first TRAC testing at 6 months post-surgery. I knew going into the testing that my quads were not equal in strength but finding out they were only about 51% to the other left me angry and discouraged. After having a long heart to heart with Luke regarding how far I had come and getting our game plan of how we were going to build strength in my right quad, I was ready for the next 3 months and more and more determined to work hard and lean into my weakness and be as prepared as I could for the next TRAC testing.
I have been so lucky to have the best physical therapist, Luke, who not only has been there to help me heal physically, but has been there to help me heal mentally. He has helped me every step of the way, encouraging me, pushing me by helping me set goals and helping me not get discouraged when things didn’t go as I had hoped. Luke is such a good motivator, he knows just what to say at the right time to make me feel better and more willing to keep pushing harder and harder every day. Because of Luke and my great experience at TCO Eagan, I now want to be a physical therapist, so that I can help young athletes that were in the same situation as I, like Luke helped me, and aid them in creating their own comeback story.
This setback really allowed me to show my determination and courage while at physical therapy and at home. I made sure to do whatever they said. That meant that I did my exercises as many times as I could and then did five more. It was and still is tough to stay determined and have the courage to stick with it even if times get tough. The first couple weeks after surgery were the most difficult, because I could not move and had crutches. Once I started physical therapy, that gave me a goal to work towards, but it was very slow and I was not seeing the progress I expected to see. Before, everything always came easy to me whether it was basketball, softball or school. This was much harder and I was not sure I could do it. It was here that I needed to dig even deeper and work even harder, even when I was not seeing progress. The support of family and friends made all the difference for me to keep pushing and encouraging me. Now, at my 8-month point, I am 85% healed and seeing great progress with my PT and back playing limited sports; I can see the end of the road towards full recovery and now it makes me want to work even harder to get back to playing with my teams again!
During this journey, I learned that you have to be determined to be able to achieve your goals. Also you have to have a lot of courage because it’s not easy for an athletic 13 year old to stop playing sports. I believe that when people break barriers they use determination and courage. Even though my journey is not over, I will continue to have courage and to be determined and will continue to dream of big goals for myself. This injury was really crushing, but I am beginning to see that it may have given me the best gift of perseverance and knowing what I really want and how to work hard for it every day.
Below are comments from Paige’s MN Sting Softball Club Coaches:
(From Head Coach Steve Snedeker)
I think one of the amazing aspects of Paige’s recovery back for her club fastpitch team was her attitude. Right from the beginning she was like “no problem”. I will be back soon. Being 13 years old, a six month recovery normally would seem like a very long time, but not to Paige. Paige made almost every practice and games and even traveled with us in the Fall 2018 to Arizona. She kept the scorebook for the team, played some catch with upper body throws and called pitches from the dugout. She was team manager and very much bonded with her team. I know she will be in the starting lineup coming this June, when are season starts. It was quite amazing that she could heal like this in these few months, as in previous years and experiences with other athletes it took a year or more. We were very impressed with her attitude and great work ethic.
(From Asst Coach Bob McGarry)
I met Paige for the first time the weekend before softball tryouts. I had seen her play and knew what a great player she was but was struck that day by her maturity, intelligence and inquisitiveness. The meeting included 4 of her teammates and all of their parents. However, Paige had some of the best questions and it was clear she knew what she was looking for in a program. The morning of tryouts, I got a call from her father Jake letting me know that she had been injured the night before in basketball game and was uncertain if she would be able to fully participate in tryouts. He said they might be a little late as they were going to get it checked out at TCO Eagan as a precaution. Well, as we all know now, it was much more serious than had been previously hoped. However, we didn’t think twice about offering Paige a position on the team because of the positive attitude she displayed when she showed up on crutches very shortly after her diagnosis and her determination to get back on the field for the Summer 2019 season. Her positive attitude has been a constant throughout the Fall 2018 season and the Winter workouts. She has been at every event that didn’t conflict with a TCO doctor’s appointment and not once has she complained about her predicament or been anything but an exemplary teammate. During the early weeks there wasn’t much that she could do so she helped her teammates learn their defensive responsibilities and even called pitches during games, as she is a catcher. As she was cleared to more activities, she would catch infield for the coaches or sit on a bucket and load the tees for teammates to warm up hitting. There were times where we couldn’t work her into the plans, but she would show up and leave with the same smile on her face regardless.
It wasn’t until the latter part of our winter training where Paige was finally able to participate in some of the workout activities. Sometimes she could participate in a team drill but most times Paige had to work alone or just with a coach but she approached every scenario with the same determination to improve herself and beat this injury. In late April, I had the pleasure to see the beginning of the fruits of all of her hard work last week when she crushed a 3-run home run over the varsity field fence in a school ball game. As I watched her slowly jog around the bases, I could see her face light up and feel that all the pain and hard work she has been through is leading to her even larger comeback in softball and in her life. There is no doubt in my mind that Paige will come out of this a stronger player and person and I am so glad that she chose our team and allowed us to be her coach. I can’t wait to see her play softball this summer!
Below are comments from Paige’s Rosemount Varsity Basketball Coach, Chris Orr:
Paige is mature beyond her years. For any 8th grader, having to endure a serious injury can be very difficult. It was heart breaking to hear that Paige had torn her ACL. I had just met with her to talk about goals for the upcoming season (Basketball) and the next thing I heard from her is that she tore her ACL. As a coach, I ask all my players to create their own legacy and write their own story during their time in our High School program. For Paige, the story hasn’t started out as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a powerful beginning to her story. Even though she was only an 8thgrader, Paige is one of the most competitive and hardworking girls we have in our program. These characteristics did not leave Paige this year, even though she was unable to participate on the court. Her competitiveness and work ethic showed in her rehab. She has been determined ever since it happened to get back on the court/field as soon as possible and stronger than ever.
Paige is also very committed. It would’ve been easy for Paige to step away from basketball this season as she knew there was no way possible that she was going to play. That’s not Paige though. She approached me asking if she could be one of our manager’s so she could use this season as a learning period and still help the team and our program out. As her rehab progressed, Paige not only continued her managerial duties, but she also began to participate on the court. By the end of the season she was able to join the team in some non-contact shooting and ball handling drills. She sent a powerful message to all of those in our program, Paige is committed, Paige is competitive, Paige is hard working and Paige will be back!