goalie Keith-Ann Wagner inspires others as she overcomes a spinal cord
were just going to see a movie.
It was the
4th of July and junior Keith-Ann Wagner had spent the weekend water skiing
at the lake with friends. After a fireworks display that evening, she
and two friends loaded into a convertible and headed to the theater.
A few minutes
later, a car careened through a stop sign and slammed into the convertible.
When the movement stopped, Wagner found herself pinned under the car.
She was awake and alive, but could no longer feel her legs. Her arms were
weak and oddly tingly.
called me just before they left," said her mother, Shirley
Wagner. "She'd spent the whole weekend doing dangerous things, and I was
relieved she was just going to the movies. They weren't doing anything
wrong, it just happened."
It just happened.
might be a mantra for the family that has faced a devastating crisis.
starting soccer goalie had broken her neck, with no prognosis for recovery.
Wagner spent two months in the hospital before returning home helpless
and in a wheelchair, a cervical halo screwed into her skull.
would prove to be the most onerous of trials; seven months later the halo
is still in place, and doctors say it will be several more before the
uncomfortable and often painful apparatus can be safely removed.
depressing circumstances, Wagner's movie-star smile remains firmly in
I could look at this two ways," she said. "I could either be mad at everyone
and God for letting this happen, or I can be thankful that I had been
blessed to be a good athlete before because it's helped me get through
On this day
in February, Wagner is resting briefly on dandelion-yellow sheets in her
sunny apartment bedroom. One of her roommates stops in, then leaves to
prepare for their "important date" that afternoon.
with excitement at the thought. "The whole [soccer] team is coming to
watch me walk this afternoon," she said, flashing dimples that would make
Shirley Temple envious. "The coach let them all out of practice." Walking
stiffly between parallel bars is a recent accomplishment.
A few months
after the accident, movement and feeling began to return slowly to her
upper body. She is officially left-handed now since that arm and hand
are pretty cooperative. No doctor wants to predict what her final outcome
will be physically, but Wagner is optimistic.
So are her
myriad friends: Her Chi Omega sisters decked out her apartment with hip
new furniture and trimmings in her beloved zebra fashion. Her roommates
learned the nuances of care for a quadriplegic (which they do several
days a week when Wagner is at the apartment).
Arlington family (her parents Shirley and Roll, and younger sister Kara,
13) was treated to care-package dinners for months. Groups showed up to
clean their house and do the yard work. And TCU teachers and administrators
helped the accounting/finance major earn six credits last fall, despite
friends have organized the first annual Keith-Ann Wagner Hope Relay, a
benefit run on April 28 that will raise money to help defray family costs.
Next year the family plans to donate the proceeds to spinal cord injury
all, Wagner looks at the positive.
so thankful I didn't have any sort of brain injury," she said. "That would
have changed everything. Now I can still get married and have a family,
have a job. Overall, nothing in the big picture has changed."
the relay, call 972-564-3101, or go to www.keithann.homestead.com for
information about the race and Wagner.