GRANTS PASS -- In October of 2017, standout Grants Pass shortstop, Skylar Padgett committed to play for Division-1 North Dakota State starting in 2019. Three months later, the future she'd worked so hard to reach, suddenly seemed uncertain.
In a late January basketball game against Sheldon, Padgett was bumped in the knee and was injured, but didn't think anything of it. At practice the following week, that injury was made even worse.
"I stepped to the side and it felt like on part of my leg went one way, the other part stayed," Padgett explains.
It was every elite athlete's worst fear: a torn ACL. Not only, that, but she had torn both her menisci.
"It's common to tear one meniscus," orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Robert Bents said, "Tearing both is a much bigger deal. It definitely prolongs the recovery quite a bit."
Dr. Bents was Skylar's softball coach when she was younger, along with her mom, Bev, a former Fresno State softball player. He is also the doctor who performed Skylar's ACL repair surgery three weeks after the incident.
"This one was really personal," Dr. Bents said of performing Skylar's surgery, "When she tore her ACL, it really kind of hit home."
The surgery was a success, but within a few days of the surgery, when Skylar started to regain feeling in her legs, she had tremendous pain in her calf. Bev, a 10-year professional in the orthopaedic industry, knew that wasn't a good sign.
"We went immediately to the ER, had the ultrasound and within an hour of the ultrasound, we knew exactly what it was," Bev Padgett remembers.
It was a blood clot, something that can happen after ACL surgery, although it's relatively rare. If left untreated, it's also extremely dangerous.
"It's actually very urgent when we find a blood clot," Dr. Bents said, "We always worry about a blood clot spreading to the lungs, which can be fatal."
Skylar was put on a regimen that forced her to undergo stomach injections every 12 hours for more than three months.
"We were waking up at 2:30 in the morning to prepare her," Bev recalls, "It was 3 o'clock in the morning we would give an injection and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we would give the second injection."
"She [Bev] would get out her little alcohol swab, swab my stomach and then open up the needle and poke me," Skylar says now with a half smile, "If you went too fast, it burned and then stung and then I'd cry and my mom doesn't want to see me cry."
After roughly 200 injections, the family brought Skylar back in for re-examination.
"They couldn't even find the blood clot. It had totally dissipated," Bev remembers excitedly, "It was the best news we ever received. It was like having her born again."
She had been rehabbing through the blood clot, but once the treatment for her blood clot was finished, she was able to turn her attention solely to healing her surgically repaired knee.
"She's been pushing the limits of what she can do and ever time it's, 'Okay, what can I do now?'" Skylar's physical therapist, Chad Dybdahl said.
Dybdahl's bigget challenge was in making sure Skylar didn't do too much too soon. While frustrated, Skylar stuck with the plan and by October, she was ready to return to the field for her travel team.
"She was scared at first," Skylar's dad, Gary, said, "Wondering, 'Am I going to be able to play at the same level I played at?' We've already seen since she's been back that she can."
In her first tournament back earlier in October, Skylar let everyone know she was more than back to normal. With a protective sleeve on her recovering knee, she put on a show.
"I get this inside pitch and it was just like, 'I see it, I see it perfect,'" Skylar said, practically still licking her chops, "I just take a turn on it and over the fence it went."
In her first weekend back, Skylar slugged a home run over the left field fence, a lined shot that got out in a hurry. It's that ability that has many thinking Grants Pass High School could have their most successful team in quite some time this Spring.
"We feel Grants Pass is going to have one of the best teams they've had in years," Gary Padgett said, "They should win their conference hopefully or even got after that state title."
"It's going to be great having her back and being able to throw her right in the mix," Grants Pass head softball coach, Donnie Bellum said, "I'm pretty excited about it."
The Padgett family said her recovery wouldn't have been possible without Dr. Bents and the tremendous work of Dybdahl to get her back into playing shape in less than nine months even through her blood clot scare. Having seen her future flash before her eyes and get another chance at it, like an inside fastball, Skylar isn't letting another opportunity pass by.
"I had it taken away from me one time, I'm not going to have it taken away from me again," Skylar Padgett said, "I'm going to work twice as hard.
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