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A marathon of a different kind

DeKalb’s Stephanie Studdard gives us a story of triumph over tragedy

Tough situations can sometimes make people see things from a completely different perspective, and sometimes even change their mind about a lot of different things. For one local young woman, a very tough situation did just that, and inspired many. 

De Kalb High School senior Stephanie Studdard’s life changed almost completely a few months back according to her. She says, “On May 1 my life was changed in so many different ways. I was involved in a major car accident that not only scared me but scared many people around me. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance not knowing that I was about to get some news that would crush my world. I had broken my L2 vertebrae in half, had internal bleeding, and my spleen was bleeding as well. I was taken to the ICU where I found out I had to have emergency surgery on my stomach. My bowel and my spleen both had to be repaired, I was bleeding internally and becoming septic due to a hole in my lower intestines. Due to my broken vertebrae, I had to lay completely flat because my vertebrae were pushing on my spinal cord.”

But the tragedy didn’t stop there for Studdard, as she recalls, “On top of being scared because I was so unsure if I would end up paralyzed or not, I had to have my stomach cut open. Everything was then repaired and then washed out with saline because I was septic. After my stomach I had to have my back repaired. They repaired my back with hardware that fused my L1 and L3 together and donor bone was replaced inside to get it to grow over that hardware.” 

For many, the obstacles facing Stephanie would seem insurmountable, the challenges would not be easy to deal with or come back from, but Stephanie did not care if it was going to be easy. With such an extensive injury, she had a lot of learning to do. She states, “I was going to have to learn to walk again, brush my teeth and hair, drink out of a cup, stand up,   and simple things that I used to be able to do by myself. It was very frustrating and sometimes can still be.” 

The recovery process was not an easy one, with lots of different things that the young athlete was having to completely relearn. Stephanie did not waste any time on her road to recovery though. She recalls, “I was in the hospital for a few weeks, and everyday twice a day, I had physical therapy come and make me do things that I normally did not even think twice about. I had to brush my teeth and hair and get up and move around. Even after I got out of the hospital I had physical therapy every single day that came to my house for a few weeks. On a visit with my doctor he told me ‘No more physical therapy. I want you to start doing things on your own. I want you to start getting back to exercising again and being yourself.’ So, after that, that was what I did. I took it slow and made my way back. My doctors pushed me to do more than I thought I would be able to do, but they were very realistic with me though. They told me that I would never walk again and that nothing would never be normal again, but even then they pushed me to be able to walk again and get back to normal. One thing really stuck in my head that they told me, ‘Let us be realistic here. Nothing will ever be normal again for you.’ That was tough to hear, but I continued to push pass what they had originally told me and they pushed me as well. My doctors truly helped me and inspired me to get better. I am so thankful for them. While my doctors were pushing me to get better my family was there for me every step of the way. My mom has never left my side. Her and my stepdad have been amazing, and I cannot say enough to thank them.”

For an athlete, being told you will never walk again can be very devastating. For Stephanie she experienced the same, “When I laid in a hospital bed for two weeks, I cried and asked ‘why me’. I was just thinking ‘what did I do to deserve this’. I’ve prayed more times since my wreck than I had ever before in my life, and now looking at all of the pictures from where I was to now and how far I have come, I have realized that I serve a very mighty God. Without Him I would not be where I am right now. Throughout this entire thing He has held my hand and He has let me know that everything is going to be okay, and that He loves me and will always believe in me. So, I had to believe in myself. Being back on the court just four short, but very long, four months is truly amazing. When all this happened, I never thought that I would be able to play anything ever again. I am really blessed to be where I am today.”

In a situation in which so much has changed so fast, it can really open your eyes to new things. But as tragic as the ordeal was for Stephanie and her family, she now sees the silver lining. “Before I was so focused on the few things that I liked that I did not really take a lot of time to look into other things. I wanted to go be a college athlete somewhere and that was mainly what I was focused on. Now I have realized that there is so much more to life than just athletics and so much more that I really enjoy. Even in a tough situation, my eyes were really opened to many different things. Before it was all about running and volleyball. I still play volleyball and I am thankful and enjoy every second of it, but I am no longer going to be competing in my running events. It still hurts me to run, and it just is not the same anymore. Even though I am giving up running, I have picked up so much more that I really enjoy doing. It did not just open up my eyes to new things, but also to things that were already there as well. I come to realize just how big of a support system I have behind me. Without all of the encouraging words, flowers, food, gifts, and everything else, I would probably still be in a hospital bed not wanting to do anything. I am so blessed to have everyone. It is a very long journey and I have got so long to go, but I know that my support system has my back and most importantly God has my back.”

Bowie County Citizens Tribune

139 E.N. Front Street
New Boston, Texas 75570