Catching hope: High school softball player uses gratitude to deal with paralysis

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21 2012 8:15 p.m. MST

While the costs associated with an injury like Sam's are staggering, even with health insurance, the town of Nephi has made the family's battle their own. They remodeled her bedroom and bathroom so it's wheelchair accessible and organized fundraisers from a Zumba class to a high school dance.

Home sweet home

Sam's goal in the hospital was to work as hard as she could so she could leave in a wheelchair that was at least partially powered by her. She achieved that goal, and she returned home to a heartfelt welcome from friends who've proven they can be as loyal to Sam as she was to them.

They visit often and they include her in their activities.

But everyday there are remnants of what she's lost, mixed with reminders of what she's found. It is difficult, especially at 17, to be so dependent — so different.

"Home is real," said Jill a few days before Thanksgiving. "Being up at the hospital she knew she was lucky. At home she feels like she can't do anything."

She doesn't want pity, and some days she wishes she didn't need so much help.

"She loves her bathroom, but she misses her basement," Jill said. She called it the hole, and she really misses it." There is a lot to miss from that life she lost. And there are moments that Sam and Jill weep for what they've all lost, how life has changed. But then they feel the affection of a community that refuses to let them walk this path alone, and they focus the battle to what's right in front of them.

After all, Jill points out, this is a girl that doctors didn't think would move at all. Now she moves her arms, her hands, and has some feeling in her lower body. She even threw a softball 20 feet a week ago.

"Samantha is not in denial," said Jill after a particularly challenging morning three weeks ago. "She is absolutely aware. None of us know where she's going. The doctors don't know."

Which is why Sam is keeping her options open.

"It's surreal, I guess, being told that you're paralyzed," she said, admitting it is hard not to mourn what she's lost. "I could get frustrated easy. When I got a card and I tried to hold it and I couldn't, I just cried forever. My mom said, 'You will be OK.' I guess this is just what I'm supposed to be doing right now, a trial I have to go through. I just try to think about what I can still do. Like getting into a normal wheelchair."

She acknowledged in the early weeks of her recovery that she knew the battles would get harder before they would get easier. But she and her family revel in the small, daily victories because they know they'll lead someplace awesome.

"She can taste again," Jill laughs. "She cracks me up with all the things we have to eat now. Considering what she's been through, she'd doing marvelous. Her attitude would blow you away."

Sam had a significant victory last week when she was able to transfer in and out of her wheelchair unassisted — a feat once deemed impossible for her to even consider.

"I told her once you can transfer yourself, your life is yours," Jill said. "You can go anywhere. It's huge."

"Sam doesn't think her life is over. It's not, 'Poor me.' She's still funny; she's still fun. She's still Sam."

Twitter: adonsports

Email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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