FORT WAYNE – On a sunny April evening at Canterbury’s softball field, Allie Brumbaugh swung and missed on two straight balls batting left-handed and looked down at the third-base coaching area in frustration. The New Haven sophomore then switched to her more natural right-handed stance but also swung and missed for strike three in the fourth inning in what became an 18-0 five-inning win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday.
It’s all about perspective.
Brumbaugh knows from where she was nine months ago, getting back into the swing of things will take time. But at least, she has that opportunity after nearly losing her life and the ability to walk.
Brumbaugh broke her back in a zip-line accident last July at a Fort Wayne pond. A pulley on the zip-line jammed, sending Brumbaugh 25 feet to the ground in what she called a freak accident.
She was rushed to the emergency room after her L-1 vertebrae suffered severe damage. Doctors later told her she was just millimeters away from being paralyzed and if she stood up, her back would have been at a 90-degree angle. Surgery was needed to fuse her L-1 vertebrae with two other vertebrae.
She spent 12 days in the hospital after post-surgery complications caused her organs to shut down because her body was still in shock after the accident. After some failed treatments, Brumbaugh got on the right medicine that essentially reset her organs.
I was so scared, but I didn’t really feel much, she said. Once I was getting closer to the hospital, I was getting tingly and I was freaking out because I couldn’t feel anything. I was getting really nervous. After surgery, the first couple of days went really well, and I was recovering really fast. Once I started having the internal problems, it kind of put me down. It was hard to get through that because I had so many tests and everything.
At times, it was a struggle for survival and the doctors doubted whether she would walk again, let alone ever swing a bat or throw a ball.
Now here she is a short nine months later, and she is back playing softball, New Haven softball coach Cassie Steinbrunner said. Her tenacity and ability to fight through the pain is pretty amazing for a young woman.
Just getting back on the field has been a major victory for Brumbaugh.
There are days when I get frustrated and think what if I didn’t go to that pond, she said. Then I think about it, and I am blessed to be here, be walking and to be able to play sports with my friends.
(Athletics) mean a lot to me. It’s the first thing I asked when I got into the hospital. I am in cheerleading, and I was, like, call my coach because I was so nervous about it. I am really happy to be back. My friends have been really good about it. They understand if I can’t do everything. If I get down, they pull me up.
Although she has recovered from the accident, it left her with some adjustments to resume her athletic career. Brumbaugh earned a varsity letter for the Bulldogs’ softball team last year as a freshman.
Because of a rod in her back, Steinbrunner moved Brumbaugh from the left side of the infield at shortstop or third base to the right side at first or second base.
There’s also work to move her from a right-handed hitter to a left-handed slap hitter, thus the frustration in her lone at-bat against the Cavaliers after entering the game with the rout on in the third inning.
It’s hard to get used to how my back feels when I take a full swing, Brumbaugh said. It’s hard to get used to it, but it’s going good. I get frustrated at myself pretty easily. It’s just different.
All this is done to reduce the twists and turns on Brumbaugh’s body.
We are trying to find a spot for her where it doesn’t agitate her back because she does have a metal rod going through the middle of her back, Steinbrunner said. First base will be the position she will play mainly to alleviate some of that pain she may feel from other positions.
We are looking to adjust her. Her posture is perfectly straight because that’s what her back allows her to do. Some of those things that might require twisting at the hips might have some limitations. As far as sprints and fielding and that type of stuff, I really don’t see (effects). I see her as normal as she was last year, if not more determined.
After sitting out the football season as a cheerleader, Brumbaugh eventually eased her way back into cheering for the Bulldogs during basketball season. As with everything, it has been a process with adjusting to the dance moves with her new body limitations.
I just found new ways to do what I like to do, she said. I just made it work for me.