To Kennedy Hehr, sports are more than just a recreational activity to take part in after school. To Kennedy, being able to play a sport is a reason to keep fighting. A volleyball player from Fontana, Wisconsin, Hehr was severely injured in a car accident in January. On January 26th, Kennedy was riding home from Illinois after watching her volleyball club’s 18U team play. It was snowing outside and they would later find out that the roads were bad. A driver coming from the opposite direction swerved over the yellow lines and changed Kennedy’s life forever.
The car made impact on the drivers’ side, toward the back of the car. Kennedy was riding on the passenger side in the backseat, but the impact was so forceful she sustained life-threatening injuries. The pain from her injuries was so excruciating that she remembers fading in and out of consciousness and telling her friends’ parents that she didn’t think she was going to make it to the hospital.
When she finally made it to the hospital, doctors told her that she was lucky to be alive. On the outside, she was completely fine, didn’t have a scratch on her. Inside, that was not the case. She had punctured her intestine and severed her stomach completely in half as a result of the blunt force trauma upon impact. She underwent emergency surgery to repair the puncture to her intestine and staple her stomach together. The surgeon also had to add 22 staples externally, from the outside of her chest to just below her belly button. Upon awakening from the grueling surgery, she set a goal to return to the volleyball court in the JVA World Challenge, a competitive AAU Volleyball tournament in Texas that was just 67 days away. The doctors encouraged her to set goals but later told her they never believed she would be able to play volleyball again, let alone in that tournament.
She spent eleven days in the hospital and missed 30 days of school. She lost 22 pounds while recovering, but despite all of the setbacks and obstacles, she never lost sight of her goal to play in the JVA World Challenge. Although she had just joined her volleyball club, Club Fusion, everyone came together and supported her throughout her recovery. Her teammates created an eight foot long banner and put together a “Get Well Video” for her while she was in the hospital to wish her good luck and a healthy recovery.
When April 4th rolled around, Kennedy was in Texas with her teammates, ready to play. She recalls when her coach pulled her aside before their first game and told her she would be starting as the libero.
“I wasn’t really ready for that to happen,” said Kennedy. “I was so excited to play, but I never really thought it would happen. It was crazy.”
Only 67 days after her life-threatening car accident, Kennedy Hehr played an entire volleyball game at the JVA World Challenge. Her life was completely flipped upside down and instead of giving up and letting the worst happen, she overcame every obstacle that was thrown at her and dedicated herself to recovering. Kennedy said setting goals from the beginning is what really helped her keep going through everything.
“In the beginning setting small goals is what helped the most and then having an end result goal was a great idea,” she said. “Reaching it makes you feel so happy and the hard work and dedication that you put into it is insane. It helped so much to achieve that goal and to keep achieving goals throughout the whole thing.”
Kennedy gives credit to her teammates and AAU Volleyball club for her full and speedy recovery.
“The doctor did say that it was a miracle that I was alive,” Kennedy said. “I give glory to God because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those people that were praying for me.”
Kennedy will be playing with her Club Fusion volleyball team at the AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championship in June at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.
From everyone here at the AAU, we want to congratulate Kennedy on everything she has accomplished so far and we can’t wait to see what else her future holds!
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