At one time or another, we have heard about the importance of cherishing every moment.
Because within the blink of an eye, life as we know it could be gone.
And while Gabby Brabner did cherish every moment, nobody can prepare for the unthinkable.
On Aug. 4, 2017, during a St. Thomas More volleyball retreat at Three Mile Lake in Port Barre, the unthinkable did happen.
Brabner, an incoming freshman at the time, was severely injured in an accident while riding on a tube being pulled by a boat. The accident left her left arm paralyzed.
“She was in ICU for three days before being moved to pediatrics,” said Gabby’s mother, Ali. “It was all just a blur. We didn’t realize how serious everything was. She woke up in a neck brace and all swollen.”
In addition to her left arm being paralyzed, the left-handed Brabner, who plays volleyball, basketball and softball for the Lady Cougars, suffered a broken right leg and left arm, broken finger and endured lacerations to her face. The left arm paralysis was a result of a severed artery.
“First thing I remember — because I was in and out of consciousness — is being in my hospital room with my parents, and I asked my dad, ‘Will I be able to play in the game next week?'” Brabner said. “(My first thought) wasn’t I’m missing school or that I’m left handed. It was am I going to be able to play? I didn’t know how serious it was.”
‘I wanted to prove the doctors wrong’
Brabner, who was one of only two freshmen to make the Lady Cougars’ varsity volleyball roster that year, ended up spending two weeks in the hospital. After a number of surgeries, she was determined to not only live life the way she deemed fit, but also to continue to pursue greatness in athletics.
However, the latter wasn’t going to be easy.
“I wanted to prove the doctors wrong,” said Brabner, whose Lady Cougars will face Vandebilt Catholic on Court 3 at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Division II quarterfinals of the state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center.
“In the beginning, because my arm is completely paralyzed, I was told sports was going to be very hard. I think a lot of doctors didn’t want to tell me straight to my face because they know how I am. But I know they told my parents, ‘She’s not going to be able to play sports.'”
Considering Brabner was expected to be a solid starter if not a star in all three sports, that was a tough pill to swallow.
“Gabby was always a really good athlete,” Lady Cougars softball coach Andria Waguespack said. “When she first tried out, you could see that she had the opportunity and the ability to be one of the best hitters to ever come through here.”
The journey back hasn’t been easy, but Brabner never gave up. The junior has since returned to playing all three sports — albeit with one arm.
She has had to learn how to play her sports right-handed. In softball, Brabner has learned to transfer her glove from her right hand to left hand in order to throw the ball similar to former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand.
“I never had the thought that I’m not going to play anymore,” Brabner said. “It was the opposite. I was like, ‘Why stop?’ I was already part of these teams, and my teammates had so much invested in me and pushed me, so I think I owed it to them to keep playing and stick with it.”