Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Strength and Determination

I read an article recently that really made me consider how we, as individuals treat our lives, our futures, out present moments. Our attitude determines our lives, simple as that.

It was by John Crumpacker,  a Chronicle Staff Writer  from The San Francisco Chronicle (California) on April 13, 2011

If you have ever been injured, this should help you to realize our own limitations, power and internal strength. I would love to meet Erica, and although I probably won't, I will carry her spirit and her strength in my soul forever.

America's best female triple jumper is not jumping these days. She's scooting.
The smile on Erica McLain's face and her upbeat outlook belie the gruesome injury she sustained March 7 while training at Stanford, her alma mater. Listening to her recount the specifics of the ghastly mishap is cringe-inducing.
"I felt like a wounded animal," she said.

With her right leg bent at the knee and resting on the padded seat of her scooter, she explained how a potentially majestic jump turned all wrong in a hurry when on the second of the jump's three phases her right foot landed partially on the runway and partially in the sand, causing a severe roll-over of the foot.

"I was having the practice of my life," the 2008 Olympian said. "I hit on the edge, with part of my heel on the track and my toes in the sand, and it made my ankle almost flip over 180 degrees so the sole of my shoe was face-up."
That was just the start, however.

"My shin bones, the tibia and fibula, popped out of the skin," McLain said with disarming calm. "It was pretty gruesome. There was a tendon on the inside of my foot that had to be reattached. It's incredibly rare. There's very little documentation on it. There are about 600 a year of this kind of open dislocation."

Incredibly, no bones were broken when McLain crashed and landed in agony in the sand pit, her wails attracting the ministrations of coaches and trainers. Emergency medical care arrived in short order.

"Fire trucks, ambulance, all the trainers came out," she said. "It took them 40 minutes to get me out of the pit. They put some morphine into me, and they had to call a doctor to get approval for more morphine."

From the sand pit at Cobb Track and Angell Field, McLain was rushed to the trauma unit at nearby Stanford Hospital, where she spent five days and endured two surgeries to clean the sand from her wound and reset her tibia and fibula.

McLain said she considers herself lucky that she didn't break any bones: "Phenomenal. It will help my recovery."

Weeks after that awful day, McLain was still unable to walk on her own. Her lower right leg was encased in a boot, and she also had crutches to get around in addition to her nifty black scooter with the basket on the front.

At the Stanford Invitational track meet two weeks ago, McLain helped out at the very pit where her accident occurred. She posted jumpers' marks on the results board after their jumps.

"I'm so lucky to have gone to Stanford, where the medical staff is still taking care of me," she said. "I'm so thankful. I have a good support system. I was five days in the hospital and I was never alone. Lots of balloons and stuffed animals."

Although one doctor who treated the 25-year-old athlete told her she would never triple jump again "I stopped working with him because I'm not going to deal with that kind of negativity," she said, another doctor who looked at her medical history of overcoming injuries said it's possible she could return to competition.

"I think I'd bet on her," said Stanford track coach Edrick Floreal, who was there that day and rushed to his athlete's aid. "It was more gruesome being there than imagining it. She's a tough kid. She really wants to come back. She has the whole year to get back."

McLain, in fact, wants to write an inspiring story of her comeback, just in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Prior to her injury, she was the best woman triple jumper in the country, with a personal best of 47 feet, 1/4 inch, the No. 5 mark in U.S. history and not far from the American record of 47-5 by Tiombe Hurd from 2004.

"It's going to be on me and my willpower," McLain said. "I think the rehab is going to be more painful than the injury itself. Rehabbing without morphine is going to be tough. I was on track to break the American record this year, and I'm not going to let this stop me. It's just going to be a new story, a story of a miraculous recovery on the way to the Olympic Games."

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