Rifle basketball player makes speedy progress after ’08 spinal injury | VailDaily.com

Rifle basketball player makes speedy progress after ’08 spinal injury

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentRifle High School senior Quincey Snyder has been sidelined by a spinal cord injury, but she is still very much a part of the Bears' basketball team.

RIFLE, Colorado – No one would fault Quincey Snyder if she viewed Dec. 30 in the dimmest of lights.

On that day, in 2008, life presented the Rifle High School basketball star with the greatest of challenges. It’s a day when a vacation went wrong. It was the day an accident in the surf of the Caribbean Sea nearly left her paralyzed.

Armed with faith, supportive family and friends, and a stubborn determined will, Snyder’s come a long way since that fateful day. Today, she can walk with crutches and stand on her own for 10 minutes. She can write, even drive.

Considering doctors told her the best she could hope for is to be able to shrug her shoulders, each feat is a minor miracle.

So, when Dec. 30 rolled around in 2009, she viewed the day not as a grim reminder of a life-altering event but as a day of triumph and reflection.

“It’s more of a day of celebration,” Snyder relayed. “Just knowing where I came from, from that time last year. It really didn’t affect me that much. I just kept going.”

And Snyder doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

She hopes to one day return to the basketball court. When she came home to Rifle last April after months of rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Englewood, one of the first things she did was hop online and order a pair of basketball shoes.

Quincey’s mother, Michelle Snyder, remembers that special moment fondly.

“She said, ‘Mom, I’m going to wear them on the court.'”

On Feb. 16 of this year, on senior night for Rifle’s girls basketball team, Quincey sported those very shoes as she walked, with the aid of crutches, onto the floor to greet her parents as part of the pregame ceremony honoring the Bears’ seniors.

A rousing ovation, one that coincided with every spectator in the gym that night rising to his or her feet, fueled Snyder as she publicly displayed the progress she’s made.

“You know, I’m so dang proud of her,” Michelle said. “To have the courage to get on arm crutches and walk out on the floor she used to run out onto. Quincey is such a quiet kid. She’s pretty much a kid of few words. She doesn’t want a lot of attention. Her comfort zone is the basketball court. For her to get up in front of that many people and put herself in that position, it was just quite a moment.”

And there were tears.

“Her dad and I have shed many tears, but the tears we shed that night were definitely happy tears for her,” Michelle added.

Despite the injury, Quincey hasn’t strayed far from the court. She spent the entire 2009-10 season on the Rifle sideline, watching games from a wheelchair and assisting Rifle’s head coach, Stephanie Heald.

“She helps me out a lot,” Heald said. “She sees it from the players’ point of view. Whether it’s a practice or it’s a game, I’ve gone to her and said, ‘What do you think about this, the way your teammates are playing right now? How would you do something different?’ She’s been a great help to me.”

Quincey’s role as an assistant coach is a temporary one, as is her stay in that wheelchair.

“We refuse to call it her chair,” Michelle said. “She’s not going to be there very long.”

When Quincey does ditch the chair, it won’t be long before she returns to her comfort zone – a basketball court.

“I still want to play every day,” she said. “I just want to get back out there, but it’ll come.”

Not even Quincey knows precisely what happened on Dec. 30, 2008. She was in the midst of a family vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, when the day took a tragic turn.

“We were just playing and diving under the waves,” Quincey recalled. “My sister and I went at the same time and I really don’t know what happened. I just remember everything going white and I couldn’t move. I was hoping I wasn’t going to drown. Thankfully, my sister was there to flip me over and take me to the beach.”

Quincey’s older sister, Lyndsey Lindauer, instantly knew that something was wrong.

“When I came out of the water, I turned around and she wasn’t next to me. I saw her face down in the water. I had, very blessedly, been trained in water rescue through lifeguarding.”

With the help of her dad and husband, Lindauer brought Quincey ashore and stabilized her neck.

The ensuing days were filled with ambulance rides, airplane trips and surgeries.

Quincey and her mom were out of Mexico and in a Miami hospital within roughly 14 hours of the accident, a blessing in its own right. Customs and logistical challenges don’t always afford such a quick turnaround.

“Most people end up staying three days,” Michelle said. “They got us out. It was incredible they were able to get us out of that. The area is incredibly opulent, but the care was pretty poor. They were wanting to put a pacemaker in Quincey. It was just crazy stuff going on.”

A tiny – very tiny – Learjet shuttled Quincey and her mom to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

“I could touch edge to edge with my arms,” Michelle said. “That’s how small [the plane] was.”

The rest of the family joined them later.

A massive surgery also followed. Quincey recites both the extent of her injuries and the procedure she underwent without hesitation.

“I had a cracked C3 [vertebrae], cracked C4, shattered C5, a ruptured disc between 3 and 4,” she passed along. “They put a titanium plate from the C3 to the C6. They took out the disc and put screws in 3, 4 and 6 and put a synthetic disc on the front of C5 because they took the front of it out.”

After approximately 12 days in South Florida, it was back to Colorado, where Quincey faced months of intense rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, a center that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries.

And she attacked that rehabilitation with as much vim and vigor as one could reasonably expect from someone facing her predicament.

One night in Miami, Quincey’s fighting spirit was revealed.

“She woke me up in the middle of the night one night,” Michelle recounted. “She says, ‘Mom, I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but I am going to walk again.’ I knew right then, there was just no doubt in my mind. I knew, as long as she had that in her mind, she’d do it.”

Quincey’s strong will is perhaps her most notorious trait. It always has been.

“She’s always had very much of a mindset of what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it,” Michelle said. “She’s very much a perfectionist. If there’s something she was really interested in, she’d practice it and practice it and practice it, until it was the way she wanted it to be.”

So, when Quincey said she’d walk again, no one doubted the proclamation.

“Quincey’s not the kind of person you doubt,” said her basketball teammate and good friend, Haydn Holgate. “I asked her, ‘What did the doctors say?’ She said, ‘I don’t care what the doctors say. I’m walking again. I’m playing again.’

“As far as I’ve known her, she’s always been that way. She’s always been headstrong. She just does what she wants.”

Those first few months at Craig Hospital were trying. Quincey essentially had to relearn virtually everything. She had to relearn how to do all the little things most people take for granted.

“Man, it was a lot of physical therapy,” she said. “Just learning everything over again, learning how to recruit muscles to do stuff, just moving my arms. Everything was really hard, but it was worth it.”

At some point early in her stay at Craig, Quincey realized she had a real tough fight on her hands.

“It finally clicked and the basketball player in me came out,” she said. “I had to work as hard as I could, because it’s really either that or I don’t do anything for the rest of my life. That’s not going to happen.”

Quincey’s nerves began to awaken in the form of finger and toe movement in February of 2009, less than two months after the accident.

An even bigger feat sat on the horizon.

The very next month, on March 11, Quincey took her first steps since the accident. With her body immersed in water, the milestone occurred during pool therapy at Craig.

“It wasn’t really walking,” she joked. “I don’t know. I was just like a baby trying to learn how to walk. It wasn’t very controlled, but it was awesome just knowing that everything was waking up, that all my nerves were coming back. That was awesome.”

Everyone knew it was an amazing day.

“It was a huge moment – huge,” Michelle said. “I mean, you believe and you have faith of what’s going to happen with her and then, you know, that day, just that one person says, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’ She was able to do it. Phone calls went out, text messages [came in] going, ‘This is what I heard. Is it true?'”

Even the staff at Craig were amazed.

“The ladies in the pool at Craig said it was incredible. Normally, with the type of injury Quincey had, the level of injury she had, it’s not something you see until about 10 years and we saw that within a few months. They were blown away.”

Pool therapy remains a key component of Quincey’s rehabilitation, as is land work. She’s a regular at Grand River Hospital’s rehabilitation facility.

“Physical therapy on land consists of walking strength, a lot of weight bearing on my legs, and coordination,” she said. “It’s a lot of muscle strength work and occupational therapy with my upper body, getting my wrists and hands back, getting my shoulders stronger, my triceps.

“With pool therapy, it’s just so much easier to do things in the pool that you can’t do on land. In the pool, you find out you can do things you can’t on land. You work on that until you can start applying it to land therapy.”

Slowly but surely, Quincey’s working her way back to pre-accident form.

“It’s all just slowly coming back,” she said. “It’s definitely harder than any basketball practice I ever had.”

Quincey’s leaned heavily on faith during her recovery. Family and friends who’ve stood behind her at every turn have provided quite the boost, too.

“That’s the only thing that’s gotten us through this,” she said. “I probably would have lost my mind if it hadn’t been for all the healing tapes, the people coming and just encouraging all of us, every day.”

In the wake of the accident, people rushed to the Snyder family’s aid.

From financial donations to prayers on Quincey’s behalf, support came from all angles.

“I’d just like our community to know how much they have blessed us, how much we appreciate the support,” a grateful Michelle said. “It’s not only through prayers and kind words and fundraisers and finances, but just for being so kind to Quincey. We are so grateful and so humbled.”

The outpouring of support has only fortified Quincey’s faith. She’ll need it as she moves forward in her recovery.

“I mean, everybody has their days,” she said. “Other than that, faith is the only thing that’s gotten me through this.”

Armed with that faith, that supportive network of family and friends and, of course, her signature stubborn will, Quincey has the tools to keep Dec. 30 a day of celebration.


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