Gymnastics is my LIFE! I didn’t realize how much gymnastics meant to me until it was taken away. I’ve been competing since I was 7 years old and played many sports until my mother noticed me doing backflips around the house and signed me up for gymnastics. From my first class, I knew gymnastics was the sport for me. I competed at every level, gaining new skills every year. I stayed healthy for 10 years, until November 3, 2020, when I thought my gymnastics career was over. On the floor, I did a layout of a skill I had mastered years ago, but when I landed, I dislocated my knee.
Once the swelling subsided, I was told that I needed medial patellofemoral ligament and tibial tubercle osteotomy surgery. I was scheduled for surgery six weeks later, but contracted COVID and pushed the surgery back. Once I had surgery, I started physical therapy within a week. I was getting stronger each day and was able to practice all events except floor and vault. I also wasn’t cleared to dismount. Twelve weeks after surgery, I petitioned for the Regional Championship. I could only do four events and no dismounts, but I needed to know my hard work and dedication paid off…. And it DID!
I was released from physical therapy and given the thumbs up to go back to full practice in May. Six weeks later, running down the vault I hit the springboard (I thought I kicked someone) and felt a pop in my leg. The same leg I just had surgery on six months ago. I thought to myself, “Not again,” I really knew gymnastics was over. I got to the ER and was told I broke my tibia. I was told that since the fracture isn’t displaced, it would heal on its own. To my surprise, at my six-week appointment, I was told that my legs were not aligned and that I would need surgery to correct, or I could not do gymnastics. I was then referred to a different surgeon.
MY LIFE SAVER, DR. NICHOLS!!!! Her approach was to put an external fixator (Halo) on my leg for 12 weeks. She explained that plates and screws would not hold up to the impact of gymnastics. The bone would have to heal completely before I could return to gymnastics and this could take at least 3-to-4 months. She also talked about putting an external fixator on my leg which would allow me to walk on my leg and even go swimming.
If I wanted to return to gymnastics this season, this was my only option. I was really struggling with not be able to return soon. She gave me all the details of what I may experience with the fixator. She told me how I would take care of it to make sure I did not get an infection. I had surgery in August 2021. I walked out of the hospital the next day, went back to PT, and was able to practice a week after surgery. I started my senior year of high school a week after surgery. Me and Charlie (that is the name of my Halo) had good days and bad days.
I was able to walk around, hang out with friends, practice, and go swimming with Charlie. I had another surgery in November to have the fixator removed. I went back to full practice on December 16, 2021. My goal was to work hard, stay as clean as possible, learn new skills, and execute. I got through the worst of it, God is with me, and I’m ready for the challenge. I knew it would not be easy, but nothing in life is easy.
I did PT two days a week and practiced gymnastics the other three days. In March 2022, I was able to compete in all events for the first time at the Regional Championship. The last time I competed in all events was in April 2019. One of the largest accomplishments for a gymnast is to make the National Championship. This is where all gymnasts throughout the country compete against one another. Only the top 40 out of 80 gymnasts from my Region would be selected.
This was the first time I was eligible to make Nationals and my last time since I was a Senior in high school. The regional championship was held at West Point Academy in New York. I had so many emotions. I was excited, I was proud, I was anxious, and I was scared. To get back on the floor and vault was terrifying. Before Regionals, I had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Nichols, she checked my leg and said you are good. I asked her if I could get an X-ray because I wanted to see that all the small fractures from the screws had healed completely. She said, “Edris trust me, you are ready, trust yourself.” I competed at Regionals and came in 36thplace. YES, I made Nationals in Mesa, Arizona. What a way to end my gymnastic career at the largest platform for youth gymnasts.
I have always wanted to become a Physician Assistant. I knew I wanted pediatrics, but I did not know what area I would specialize in. After going through my situation, I decided to specialize in Pediatric Orthopedics. I currently attend Arcadia University, majoring in Pre-Physician Assistant. My goal is to return to Nemours as a PA and assist Dr. Nichols in surgery, making children’s dreams come true. I tell my story to all that will read it. I cannot thank Dr. Nichols enough. She made this all possible when I did not see myself ever competing again. My motto is, “Practice like I never won. Perform like I never lost.”