Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site presented by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Mind Over Matter

By Emily Karas

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Leave it to me to sleep through the scariest moment of my life.

It’s probably a good thing that I did, or I might not even be here to tell my story. The last thing I remember was riding in a car to an all-day music festival with three of my friends. It was the summer of 2019, school was out, and we were looking forward to an opportunity to just let loose and have a little fun.

But we never made it to the event.

I don’t remember the actual car crash. The only thing I can recall is waking up in a hospital bed with technicians pulling and tugging at me for x-rays. That’s when I learned of the seriousness of my situation.

Two shattered collarbones, four broken ribs, and a partially fractured spine—I was never the same after that accident.

A near catastrophe

We were hit on the rear passenger side of the vehicle, which is exactly where I was sitting, so I took the brunt of the impact. Being asleep kept me from tensing up during the collision and probably saved my life. Thankfully, while some of my friends sustained injuries as well, everyone was okay.

There was so much to be thankful for in that moment, but I also knew I had a tough road ahead. It was a road that came with so many questions.

Would I ever play softball at Oakland again? What if I never fully recover?

With the snap of a finger, my whole world was suddenly upside down.

I stayed in the hospital for six days before going home and eventually returning to school. It was really important to me to still go to school and settle back into some sort of routine. My parents and softball coach decided I needed to lower my course load for the semester. I was coming off a serious concussion, and given my physical state, there was no way I would have been able to carry all of those books across campus.

I’d just survived one near catastrophe. I didn’t want to chance another.

Fortunately, I had a lot of great supporters who helped me with my everyday activities after I returned home from the hospital. My mom would show up to my apartment occasionally and help out with bringing groceries. My siblings helped me with sitting up straight, feeding me, and changing my clothes. And my teammates assisted with all sorts of basic necessities as well. It was a very difficult chapter in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for my amazing support system.

Because of my physical struggles, I slept upright in a chair for months in an effort just to find some comfort. And yet, one of the most depressing parts was seeing the team go on without me. I made it a point to be as supportive as I could and go to every practice. It was hard seeing them out there doing what I loved, while I was struggling to pull apart a really light band during occupational therapy. They were competing and getting better, while I was having a hard time throwing a ball 10 feet in front of me.

I was sad. I was frustrated. And in all honesty, quite devastated.

My parents eventually sat me down and gave me the cold, hard truth.

They told me I was never going to be the same person again. This was my new reality, and I needed to accept the fact that there was always going to be pain and discomfort. But that also didn’t mean I had to give up, either. I had to find my own way to push through.

That mentality really put everything into perspective for me. It was in that moment that I said goodbye to the pity party.

The formative years

It paid off having coaches for parents.

There’s always a bit of tough love sprinkled in there. To this very day, I can still remember my mom standing behind me in the front yard, critiquing every pitch I threw.

My dad was on the other end as a catcher and ‘human shield’, making sure I didn’t pitch a hole through the house. I can still hear him yelling back at me.

“Don’t hit the house!”

Those formative years with my family really helped make me the person I am today. My parents have always had my best interests in mind, and I really took their advice to heart.

That was the day I decided I wouldn’t act like I was injured anymore. I vowed to ignore the pain and do everything like a normal person.

I bought my own groceries and carried all of them at once because that’s what normal people do, right? I hauled three baskets to do laundry. I even tossed balls and asked the coach if I could run the bases to start losing my sitting around weight.

I’ll go ahead and apologize to my doctors and physical therapists.

If any of you are reading this, I definitely didn’t listen like I should have.

But I didn’t want to be hurt anymore, you know? I wanted to stop feeling sorry for myself and get a little more involved. Honestly, that change in mentality is what helped get me through it.

Even to this day, there’s still some pain and discomfort—and even a horrible clicking sound in my right collarbone. It isn’t always easy, but I know that’s how it’s going to be now. It’s nothing I can’t handle.
I just have to power through.

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My parents have always had my best interests in mind, and I really took their advice to heart. That was the day I decided I wouldn't act like I was injured anymore. I vowed to ignore the pain and do everything like a normal person.

Nothing is Impossible

That accident awakened a strength in me I never knew I had.

My body might have been ruined, but I knew I was alive. I wasn’t going to go down that easy, and it would take a lot more than that to hold me down.

I’m hoping my time will come this upcoming season. No, I’m not the same athlete I was before the accident, but I’m trying to be a different kind of athlete. I have a very limited window as a senior, and I just want to go all out and make sure I can be the best I can for my teammates.

I’m thankful to still have this opportunity. Softball will always hold a special place in my heart even if I can’t play forever.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll seriously take up coaching someday. I’m already offering pitching lessons and helping my father co-coach my sister’s traveling team.

But I also have plans of attending Wayne State University, graduating with a mortuary science degree, and becoming a funeral director once I’m done at Oakland. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and it’s no coincidence that I was given a second chance at life.

Soothing families and helping them move comfortably through their grief process to the best of my ability is my future goal. It’s going to take a lot of work to get there, and I know it won’t be easy.

However, as long as I mind my stride and don’t hit the house, I can push through anything in life.

With mind over matter, nothing is impossible.

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