Coronavirus Op-Ed

By: Sadie Woodruff

Almost six months ago, we all saw our lives as we knew them completely change due to the spread of COVID-19. We’ve all seen the effects that the current pandemic has had on our lives. From quarantine, to social distancing, to masks all becoming a new, important part of our lives. We all want life to be back to normal as soon as possible, and everyone can contribute differently.

Even though the concept of wearing a mask seems simple, it isn’t as simple for everyone you see. I went through an accident in 2016, an oil fire started in my house that left me unable to walk. My sister and I made it out, but my mother was still inside trying to put the fire out when I eventually heard her scream. I ran back inside, through the fire, over the hot oil covering the floor, burning me in the process. My mother made it out of a separate door just when I went back inside for her. The house was filled with smoke and I didn’t know the condition of the fire’s spread, I just didn’t want to lose my mother.

After slipping on all of the oil, I managed to push myself off of the wall and out of the door I came in through. The first thing I asked myself was if I would ever get to continue being a competitive figure skater. My mother and sister were sitting in our yard when I came outside, we called 911; fire trucks along with ambulances soon surrounded us. My mother and sister were in one ambulance while I was in another, alone. To this day, I still have trouble seeing or hearing ambulances and fire trucks.

Our brand-new neighbors had just recently bought my uncles' boat. Since they had his contact information, they called him. My uncle was able to get ahold of my father, who was in Texas for work. Thankfully, with my father being established in the drag racing industry, there were many people offering whatever help they could give, some of the help being a private plane ride back home to us.

I was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital. I thought that my mother would be at a completely different hospital than me since it was a children’s hospital, but I was too scared of the answer to ask. Thankfully, she was there as well. It was hours before I saw anyone or heard about the condition of my mother. I remember being in a triage room asking if my mother could hear me if I were to scream. I didn’t want her to know I was suffering.

I ended up being in the hospital for five days, but my mother stayed for twenty-three days. My mother ended up needing two different skin graft surgeries. It was the most difficult time of my life. It was a long road to recovery before I could think about stepping on the ice again. As a competitive figure skater, that was my first priority. Recovery took a lot of determination and work. It also took the support of everyone we knew and even people we didn’t know existed before. By the time I got back to school there were only two days until finals. I had a severe limp and couldn’t wear normal shoes yet, but I knew I wanted to get back to normal life as soon as I could.

Compressions were something I had to wear 24/7 for months to lessen the scarring that would happen and help with the pain. I ended up working so hard on my recovery that I got to take the ice less than a month after my accident. My dad told me not to overexert myself and to do absolutely no jumping, which I responded to with the promise of only doing single rotation jumps. Even though my life had turned upside-down I worked as hard as I could to get back to my normal life.

Four months after the accident, I ended up qualifying for nationals and earned the bronze medal. I will never forget the moment when I ran again for the first time to tell my family I had medaled. Tears flooded and, in that moment, I knew that eventually everything would be normal again. All of the pain, tears, and hard work had paid off and it was only up from there.

My accident was four years ago but it is still a difficult subject to talk about and I still deal with the effects every day. Every so often my feet will have a day where there’s so much pain but it's not nearly as often as it was in the beginning. I was diagnosed with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, panic disorder, and PTSD as a result of the accident. I tend not to tell people about my situation because of the look I would get from anyone I told. The look of shock and extreme sympathy makes me feel so uncomfortable and weak, so I avoid telling people about this chapter of my story, but I’m working on it now more than ever.

Don’t judge everyone you see so quickly. Just because someone you see may not be wearing a mask in a certain situation, doesn’t mean they don’t care about the pandemic. I’m not supposed to wear a mask because of the effects of my accident, but the general public doesn’t know this by looking at me. I’ve been participating in all of my classes strictly online so that others can stay safe and so I can be safer in this crazy time. Getting back to normal life looks different for everyone, combating COVID might look different too. Remember to respect everyone, you don’t know what any one person has gone through or deals with every day.