Kaylee Hurley has always loved playing sports. That made what happened to her when she was just a sixth grader all the more difficult.
“I had a spinal cord stroke, which is a loss of blood flow into spinal cord,” said Hurley, now a senior at McClain High School in Greenfield, Ohio. “It happens to .1 percent of people my age.”
She was hospitalized for nearly four months as doctors ran tests in search of the cause.
“It could’ve been something as simple as arching my back wrong way,” said Hurley. “It’s just extremely rare.”
She admitted she had low points as she came to grips with being wheelchair-bound, but she got over it quicker than many other people would.
“I think I’ve always been pretty optimistic person,” said Hurley. “Instead of dwelling on it, I realized there were other people in the hospital who were worse off than me. I had a lot to be thankful for still.”
That includes sports. Soon after she left the hospital, Hurley researched adaptive sports and discovered seated racing. Now, Hurley competes in a number of adaptive track-and-field events, including the shot put and the 100-, 400- and 800-meter races.
“I like distance races more than sprints,” she said. “You can start at a pace and speed up at the end. I go at a fast pace. I’m probably at about 80 percent and on the last lap, 300 meters in, I go about 100.”
To compete Hurley had to completely retrain her body.
“Most of the sports I used to play didn’t require an excessive amount of upper body strength,” said Hurley. “My strength wasn’t endurance, either. I had to learn how to run with my arms.”
All the work has paid off. This year, Hurley qualified for four state wheelchair events for the third consecutive year. She took home three gold medals and a silver. She also won the shot put event at the Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals in Wisconsin in July.
Now, Hurley’s goals are even higher, and there is no reason to believe she won’t meet them. After everything she’s been through, it’s clear that nothing can stop her.
(PHOTO: Highland County Press/Stephen Forsha)