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A Bulldog’s Grip

Yale athlete Amanda Walton reclaims her life.

(page 1 of 2)

 In the spring of 2000, Amanda Walton was at the top of her game. She had just completed her sophomore year at Yale University, had been named First Team All-American in field hockey and received First Team All-Ivy honors in both field hockey and lacrosse. It was quite an achievement for a sophomore starter, one that followed on the heels of being named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in both field hockey and lacrosse her freshman year—making her the second person in Ivy League history to be named Rookie of the Year in both sports.

“She is probably one of the best female athletes ever to come to Yale,” said Ainslee Lamb, who was Walton’s assistant field hockey coach in her first two years at Yale. “She was breaking career records in her sophomore year.”

Just days after finishing her second year, Walton’s life was shattered in a single instant when her Saab was struck at 80 mph by a driver fleeing police in a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood in Meriden, Connecticut. It was May 28, 2000. The Jaws of Life extracted her from her crumpled vehicle and she was heli-lifted to St. Francis Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Hartford, Connecticut, where she lay for the next month and a half in a deep coma.

When asked about her injuries, Walton cites massive internal bleeding, a shattered pelvis, a broken right foot, a sprained left foot and the severe brain trauma that marks the magnitude of what she struggles with now in her daily life. “I broke my brain,” she said quite simply.

In medical terms, her injury is defined as traumatic brain injury (TBI). Specifically, Walton suffered diffuse axonal injury (DAI), which involves bleeding all over the brain (diffuse, meaning that the trauma involved more than one area of the brain). The outcome is often prolonged coma, with over 90 percent of patients with severe DAI never regaining consciousness. It is a potentially devastating injury that can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, sensation, motor skills and language.

“I think part of my journey is about
proving the impossible . . . I love breaking records.”

The fact that Walton survived at all is a miracle. The way her smile infects her entire person, flashing into the corners of her eyes and overtaking her face, is proof of her enduring spirit. It is a force much larger than any medical terms or definitions or standard data.

Walton doesn’t believe in statistics, an extension of what she calls her “I don’t believe in not believing” philosophy. “Nobody ever said, ‘This is where you are going to be and no more,’” she said. “And if they did, I would have said: ‘Take another look. You don’t know,’ … and this may sound a little cocky, but, ‘Take another look. You don’t know who you are dealing with.’” >>>



Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Old to new | New to old
Dec 27, 2009 06:43 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Amanda has always been and continues to be very special...go get 'em sweetheart!

Jan 4, 2010 02:45 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Mands: I love you! This article is fantastic! I will be cheering for you from afar, come March, as you no-doubtably will take names and kick a** in the pool! I am so proud of you! Much love, Meliss

Apr 7, 2010 07:56 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Amanda is one of the most wonderful, incredible people in the world. She is an inspiration to everyone. Keep moving! Believe! Celebrate life! She does more good for others than she will ever know . . .

May 10, 2011 05:19 pm
 Posted by  manulinks

What a great inspirational story. I have shared this story to my 3 boys, future Yalies.

I have an older son, Tyler, that will be attending Yale next fall of 2011. He will also be an athlete at Yale. They recruited him all the way out here in Idaho to play football for Tom Williams at Yale Football.

Also, my second son, Tevin, will be attending a Yale Lacrosse camp (Whiz Kids Camp) in July 5 to July 7 this summer. He is also hopeful to become a Yalie in 2 years.

We often go camping near the sawtooths in the summer with our church youth group. So if we are in that area, My family would love to make the trip to Wood River and meet Amanda in person. It would just be a great experience for my family and hopefully Amanda.

Thanks Ron Manu, Meridian, ID

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