Value of life made clearer
Lindsay Byer and Brittney Campana know about the complexities of life.
How it isn't easy. How it throws you off your path. How it requires strength and courage to return to normalcy.
Byer and Campana, who alternate between pitcher and shortstop for the Southington High softball team, had been sunken in the depths of despair.
In an age when teen-agers believe they are invincible, Byer and Campana will tell you otherwise.
In the beginning: Take Byer, for example.
Last May she and her sister, Jennifer, were leaving the high school after a softball game when their vehicle was struck by another.
The Wildcats were preparing to play in the regional semifinal. Then this happened.
The passenger in the car driven by her sister, Byer can't remember many details, only the stories from others who say she ended up laying on Jennifer's lap.
After she began having seizures, doctors discovered a blood clot on her temple and a fractured skull.
She couldn't move her neck and she lost some hearing in her left ear.
Many Southington supporters filled the Trumbull Memorial Hospital waiting room that night; there were people Byer didn't even know.
Doctors contemplated surgery but decided to let the clot drain through Byer's ear; the process took two months.
With time, Byer was told, her fracture would heal. It wasn't until August that she was given clearance to play golf.
Jennifer is now a freshman on the Ashland University softball team, and she won't drive unless absolutely necessary, Byer said.
"I just wanted to get back to doing stuff," said Byer, a junior, of her recovery. "I'm outgoing, but I had to stay in the house because the sun gave me bad headaches."
There are still signs that remind Byer of the accident -- sinus problems, headaches, dizziness -- but she has thrived in her return to the team this season, pitching a no-hitter in her first game and helping to lead the Wildcats to an 12-1 record.
Another comeback: Campana, a sophomore, has had a hand in that success, as well.
But, for the past couple of years, Campana has battled the effects of scoliosis, which is the curvature of the spine.
It forced her to wear a back brace, at first for six hours a day, then up to 23 hours at one time.
"That was horrible," she said. "I had blisters, rashes. They had to squeeze me into it. I could barely eat or breathe; I lost so much weight."
Surgery appeared inevitable.
"I had two metal rods placed in between my spine because I had two curves," Campana said of the June, 2000, surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. "I couldn't even pitch anymore [prior to the surgery] because I had a big knot on my back."
In the time right after the surgery, Campana suffered through intense pain. She became depressed and emotional, but she never gave up.
The encouragement shown by her doctors and parents boosted her recovery. Now, Campana is playing for the Wildcats again, at nearly full strength.
"I still need a little work," she said, "but I'm almost there. I feel I've come a long way for having surgery just in June."
In her first game back this season, Campana pitched a two-hitter with 19 strikeouts as Southington defeated Fairport Harbor.
Their link: Because of the adversity they've faced and conquered, Byer and Campana say they feel a bond with each other, even if they don't spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact.
"She knows what I went through and I know what she went through," Byer said.
For the most part, life for Byer and Campana at Southington has returned to normal.
XBrian Richesson covers high school sports for The Vindicator.