Words such as “can’t” or “no” seemingly do not apply to 2017 DoD Warrior Games athlete Christy Gardner. After suffering a spinal-cord injury in 2006 that left her paralyzed, and subsequently having both legs amputated, she is competing in her first Warrior Games and apparently nothing is holding her back.
“It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s really exciting to be here,” said Gardner. “To be back part of a unit is huge. Everyone has each other’s back again like being in a squad.”
No one could be blamed for expecting Gardner to take things easy for the rest of her life, but that’s before you get to know her.
July 5, 2017 - Team Army athlete Christina Gardner and her dog Moxie take a break after the discus competition in the 2017 DoD Warrior Games. The DoD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anna-Liesa Hussey)
“I was a U.S. Army Sergeant in the Military Police Corps. 82nd MP Battalion out of Ft. Hood,” said Gardner. “I got hurt in the summer of 2006, I was on a peace keeping mission overseas. I suffered two skull fractures and some facial fractures. In the medivac, they accidentally injured my spinal cord,” she explained.
In 2015, Gardner, with help from her physicians, decided it would be best to treat her paralysis with leg amputations. At the time is was a relatively uncommon practice but one that has proven successful for her.
“When she first told us ‘Mom, I’ve decided to have my legs amputated’ it’s like what?! What the heck are you talking about?! You are not going to have your legs cut off,” said Norna Heidrich-Crowell, Gardner’s mother. “She explained it to us and it hurt at first but, after seeing her from recuperation and the first time she put a prosthetic on and the smile on her face as she walked it’s just really hard to describe. It just brings me to tears. I was in tears when I saw her run her first race. Considering when she first got injured she came home with a list of things that she would never do, she’s proven them all wrong.”
Along with her mom and coaches, Gardner has another very important member of her support network, her service dog Moxie.
“She’s been with me for about seven years now so she’s stuck through it all,” said Gardner. “She’s specifically trained for seizure alert response. Since the surgeries she’s been more of a motivator, where she’ll take her ball and press it up against my leg and give me those puppy dog eyes to say ‘alright, time to get up to go walk or play.’ She kicks my butt and makes me get off the couch.”
Any single sport at the Warrior Games would take extreme amounts of dedication and training to compete in. Gardner is competing in sitting volleyball, discus, shot put, track and swimming.
“With my new legs I am able to run,” says Gardner. “So, that’s my favorite part just because I couldn’t do it and now I can. So far I have golds in the 100, 200 and 800 meter.”
Gardner then went on to take a gold medal in the 400 meter race in her class.
2017 is the first year that the Warrior Games have been held in a city and not on a military installation. Organizers are hoping that bringing the games out into the public will bring more attention to the games and athletes by reaching a wider audience. Gardner hopes the awareness helps reach other injured, wounded, or ill veterans and service members.
“Adaptive sports have been such a crucial step in my recovery,” Gardner said. “I want everyone to have the same opportunity. I felt so limited but here it’s like there are no boundaries. I would say absolutely come to this. Events like this are a life changer.”
The 2017 DoD Warrior Games continue until July 8 in Chicago. The games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball.
More information about the DoD Warrior Games
By U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jonathan Word
Provided through DVIDS
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