A transcendent figure, admired as much for her military service as for her achievements as an ice sledge hockey competitor, Christy Gardner has emerged as a champion for patient’s rights. Making the visceral decision to have her legs amputated as a means of reducing her suffering, and preventing further injury, Gardner’s story is one based on dignity and the chance to improve her quality of life.
If her legacy can be defined by one word, it must be toughness. Since sustaining an injury as a member of the Military Police in the Demilitarized Zone, Gardner’s life has been defined by the courage to navigate through suffering and emerging even stronger for it.
Having already undergone 19 surgeries since that life altering moment in the DMZ, Gardner’s injuries (which also affected her spinal cord) also required the use of braces in order to walk. Unable to feel her feet, along with the chronic discomfort of braces, medical opinion suggested that it was better than being confined to a wheelchair.
Getting the opportunity to compete in ice sledge hockey, it was more than a form of athletic therapy, but a relief from the painful process of recovery. Observing how some of her teammates from the USA Warriors, among others, were managing to enjoy life without their legs, would eventually prove to be a source of encouragement, giving her the confidence to make the bravest decision of her life.
As a side note, Gardner (who won USA Hockey’s Disabled Athlete of the Year Award in 2013) experienced a great career milestone earlier this year. With the NHL’s Washington Capitals hosting the Winter Classic at Washington Nationals Park, Gardner and her club team, the USA Warriors were invited to immerse in the opportunity to participate in a practice.
The fact that it took place in the nation’s capital of Washington was a fitting way to pay tribute to the remarkable military heroes that compete for the Warriors. Washington’s Walter Reed hospital will also be the place where Gardner shall receive her new prosthetic limbs, bringing an end to Gardner’s brave battle.
Financially, the obstacles presented may have been the most difficult aspect to endure. Considering the cost of the surgery (conducted by a private physician in California), along with travel and accommodations, the estimated costs are expected to add up to $14,000 per leg. Through online funding http://www.gofundme.com/christygardner, it has helped, proving to be possibly be the most important off-ice assist.
Sharing her story via social media has resulted in a profound connection, as empathy and admiration intertwine. Among the new fans she has made, one unexpected gesture of kindness put into perspective the strong sorority of women’s hockey. Reagan Carey, USA Hockey’s Director of Women’s Hockey, placed a heartwarming image of encouragement on Gardner’s facebook page, truly displaying the positive essence of teamwork.
Based on Gardner’s determined ability to recover from injuries, complemented by a desire to regain her life and the perseverance to continue her athletic pursuits, it tells the tale of a heroic woman who not only fought against great odds, but overcame them. Despite the eventual end to her medical journey resulting in the amputation of both legs, Gardner will never stop standing. Spiritually and symbolically, this heroic patriot will always stand up for courage, walking tall in the face of adversity.