For weeks after the accident, maybe months, Alex had two goals. She was determined to get back for the final month of her Co-op (a sixth month, full-time internship incorporated into her degree program) and hopeful to once again play rugby. Neither goal happened.
She and I were working to put her life back together in Philadelphia just weeks following the car accident that nearly took her life. Recovering from 10 broken bones, a severe compound concussion, jaw surgery, and several soft tissue injuries, Alex’s primary concerns were getting back to life as she knew it, which is completely normal for anyone in trauma. I, as her mom, wanted nothing more than to help her scale every hurdle that had suddenly and violently appeared.
Although I’ve since learned a lot about trauma, three years ago I had no idea how to respond to her desperation to play the sport she had grown to love: rugby. I quickly learned one of the reasons she loved it so. I was amazed at how her team supported her throughout her recovery, sitting by her bed 24/7 at the hospital, helping to move her out of her apartment (and even storing her belongings for weeks), bringing her groceries, showing her unconditional love every step of the way.
After listening to her talk of playing rugby again, I found a few quiet moments with Bridget Wiseley, Drexel’s Head Athletic Trainer for Club Sports. I asked if there was any chance she’d ever return to rugby. She said it was highly unlikely, but recommended we not say anything to Alex because sometimes stealing hope during recovery is like taking away the light in complete darkness. Bridget not only knew to give Alex the space she needed to let go of the sport she loved, she also helped us maneuver through several unfriendly police stations, recommended the perfect medical team, and loaned us a cooler (since the hotel had no refrigerator).
Bridget, the first ‘Philly girl’ I’d known personally, became a hero by showing up for two doe-eyed San Diego girls.
Eventually, Alex found her way to the realization she would never play rugby again. Her doctor, a rugby player himself, confirmed it once she was brave enough to ask. Around a year following the accident, Alex called me and declared she found a new sport: sailing. Yes, there’s a sailing team at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Who knew?
Jump ahead a year and a half later to Wednesday night, May 16, 2018. Alex was awarded the “Athletic Training Comeback Athlete of the Year” award. Pictured above with Alex is the ‘Philly girl’ herself, Bridget, along with Alex’s Athletic Trainer, Mike Watkins.
Through watching my girl literally fight her way back to life, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the human spirit. Alex has more drive and tenacity than anyone I know. And yet, she could not have risen as strongly and triumphantly without support. There are so many to whom we will be forever grateful.
As a mom, it’s an amazing comfort to know that when my kids need it most, someone will show up when I can’t.
I know that Bridget and Mike are kind of like teachers in that they invest much unrecognized time into people. I see you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting my comeback girl.