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July 2012 Archives

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Why am I a redshirt senior?

My sophomore year in college I struggled through the season with a nagging knee injury. After the season, and mass amounts of rest, it was decided that patella surgery would have to be performed, but it was pretty basic.

I should have been playing full force again within 10 weeks. Well, the 10 weeks turned into about 59 weeks.

A few days after the original surgery on February 23, 2010, I went back into the ER for an emergency surgery for a disease cleansing surgery. I had been diagnosed with MRSA-Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is an antibiotic resistant infection, which is lethal if not caught and treated early enough.

I was put on medication after surgery through a permanent IV called a PICC line. I was convinced I would complete the school year, but after another week of rest, a continuous fever of over 100 degrees, and not feeling any better at all, I decided to take a medical waiver from school and go home with my parents.

Saying goodbye to my team that day was one of the worst days- I was determined to see them again, but didn't know how long it would be.

That night I slept in my own bed only to wake up to yet another high fever and horrible chest pain. I was convinced I was having a heart attack. My mom was adamant that it was indigestion so I drank what seemed like a two liter full of diet coke, which ended in very little relief.

I was for sure that it was more serious than indigestion. Unfortunately, I was correct. I went back to the hospital and was lined up to meet my new knee doctor as well as an infectious disease doctor.  With their collaboration and expertise -and another surgery- they had found that my body was rejecting the medicine I had been taking because I was allergic to it. That explained the continuous fever.

They also explained to me that because my body was fighting off the medicine, that the MRSA was spreading and another surgery would be necessary in a few days- surgery #4!! They finally found a medicine my body would accept after two more trials. I don't have any allergies on my record now except for all of these strong antibiotics.

So finally, I start to feel better but am posted up in the hospital bed for what seemed like forever. I was so appreciative of friends that came to visit and daily skype dates with loved ones back in North Carolina. I never realized how much I could miss Cullowhee, but during this time of complete bed rest, I quickly became appreciate of my Catamount family.

Once I got back to my own home, it was a pretty standard routine. I would wake up and do therapy on my knee by myself. I would then watch never ending repeats of Law and Order: SVU and Family Feud, and I would also go to the physical therapist for hours on hours to try and rehabilitate my knee from the original reason I had surgery.

At this time I was unable to walk without assistance. I had a very decorated walker that I sported; it had a bell, basket, and ribbons! But I wanted to get off that thing so badly. I wanted nothing more than to walk again. It was a process to reach that goal.

My physical therapists worked tirelessly to improve my leg strength and teach me how to walk again. In addition to all of the therapy, I was also working on gaining weight back. Laying around for two months, not walking, and stressing over my health caused me to lose a total of 48 pounds. I was disgustingly skinny- you could see every bone in my body. My leg was as small as my arm. I had lost all muscle in my body.

After a few weeks of intense therapy, my leg was not getting any better. It was not straightening or bending. It was stuck at a certain angle from not moving it for so long while dealing with the infection. My doctor decided to go back in for another surgery (#5) to clean out built up cartilage and check on the infection. The surgery was seemingly successful but needed another one a short time later (#6).

By this time I was convinced I had made it through all of the surgeries. I had completed six surgeries, I was gaining weight, and I was beginning to walk a little bit more without my walker. I was doing well at physical therapy. I felt like I was making great strides, and I was.

However, these big strides forward soon came to a halt, and I had little to no progress for quite awhile. My knee was still in need of another surgery (#7). I recovered again from surgery, but again to a few steps forward in therapy and then five steps backwards. The doctor, physical therapist, my mom, and myself had a conversation. It was stated that if I had another surgery and it was not successful in physical therapy recovery, I might not be able to ever run again. It would take a lot of hard work on my end to make sure I didn't take a single minute off. I had to do everything perfectly to put myself in the best position possible to recover correctly.

My last surgery was June 22, 2010. Eight surgeries in six months, a total of 35 days- five full weeks- in the hospital. I had a permanent IV and took IV antibiotics for over six months. I had cried countless hours in pain, fear, and mental and physical exhaustion. I did all of this and was able to show back up to school that next fall.

I still had numerous hours of physical therapy while being back at school. I was not running but was able to walk without the walker. I went to physical therapy three times a day.

My 21st birthday, April 14th, 2011, I was cleared to play soccer again. Tears of joy had never been a more appropriate expression.

My doctor had explained to me as he signed my release that this was a release he thought he would never sign. He was amazed that I had recovered from such a horrendous nightmare and was going to play again. I told him that I couldn't not play again- I had to have the ball at my feet.

This past season, I started every game and helped my team reach the SoCon tournament. I plan to do the same in my last season of eligibility. Can't wait to get the season started in a few days. 

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I have been working with the Catamount Club for awhile now as an intern and have really enjoyed the tasks I have been given. I love working with all the different sports team and raising money for the athletic department through donors. Meeting people who care enough to care about student-athletes to donate money for our scholarships is really special. There are a lot of fun, unique, special, and most of all caring people that I have met through the Catamount Club members.

Besides working the internship, I also have been a part of our Student Athlete Advisory Committee, SAAC, all four years I have been here. The last two years I have been Vice President under football player, Chris Everett, but this year I am taking over as President.

I am really excited to move into this role, and even more excited about the executive board and representatives I have working with me; the past couple years SAAC has really improved and become one that is recognized highly in the SoCon.

SAAC is composed of about 60 members all of which are student athletes. Every team is represented by at least two members, but there are many teams that have more members. It is great to see everyone come together from all of the sports. It truly shows our Catamount family. It is by far one of my favorite parts. I can say without doubt that almost all of my best friends on other sports teams here is because of the time I spend with SAAC.

Some of the goals we have this year is to raise more awareness and attendance at every sporting event. We will do this first off by concentrating on getting all of the student-athletes out to games. We are planning on putting calendars and flyers around the locker rooms and the weight rooms. We have also brainstormed to print off "Weekly Games" to put around campus that people can grab and take with them. This will have all of the games for the week so hopefully it will help people to remember.

Another big project SAAC has been doing for multiple years now is the Breast Cancer Awareness Project of "Pink Zone." Last year this was a philanthropy event that I really concentrated on and tried to expand. Last year we sold pink t-shirts and collected personal donations throughout the entire school year.

Every sport chose one game designated for their pink zone game. At this game, you could find the teams warming up in pink, wearing pink jerseys, pink ribbons and streamers, and of course we tried to get the fans in pink as well! It was a ton of work and stress but was for sure a great cause. We were able to collect over $4,000 to donate which majorly exceeded my original goal of $3,000.

This year we plan to get more corporate sponsorships to help fund new shirts. We also plan to get more involved with Relay For Life and the Greek affiliations here on campus to help decorate, advertise, and raise money for this awesome cause.

Outside of athletics, I am also involved in tutoring. For two years in college I have tutored a young man with Asperger's Syndrome. I did my best to not so much tutor in every subject, but more to be a "life coach" of some sort. This was a valuable experience for me as I was able to expand my horizons to learn more not about people with this learning challenge, but even more so about me. I not only had to organize my life, but help to teach to organize his. It really helped keep me on task as well. I also enjoy tutoring in economics, accounting, and math on the side. I love helping people, especially my friends and fellow students.

In addition to all of those activities, is my family. I am so very blessed with the two best parents around, Stephanie and Jay, as well as two little sisters Jordan and Julia. Jordan is 20 and plays soccer for Northern Kentucky University, and Julia is about to be 15 and starting her freshman year of high school at my alma mater, Mercy Academy. I also have two dogs- an English bull dog named Webster and a boxer named Snickers. My family- and my puppies- are very important to me.

I'm so appreciative of all they do and have done for me. There are not many soccer games that I can count that one of my parents wasn't there. They are by far by biggest and truest fans. Definitely couldn't be where I am today without them.

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Over the course of this preseason and fall, Western Carolina women's soccer senior Samantha Hodge will give an insightful look in the Catamount soccer, and her busy schedule, with her video series "What's Up with Samantha?" as well as a complimentary blog.

Hodge will give fans a look into not only the soccer team but her busy schedule. She is a President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) as well as the athletic representative for the student government association. She has taken on numerous other roles which she will share in upcoming updates.

Hodge's Blog Entry Number One:

So this is my first blog post! My name is Samantha Hodge, and I will be a redshirt senior this year for Western Carolina's Women's Soccer program. I am from Louisville, Kentucky, but Cullowhee has become my new home over the past four years. I love being a Catamount and I love my teammates as if they were sisters. Last year we lost two seniors, but we are gaining 5 new freshmen and a transfer as well! We have all been training hard, and we are expecting big things of ourselves this year.

It is the middle of July now and our Preseason Training doesn't start until the first of August. As quickly as I want to get back on the field, I am not ready for my soccer career to be over. However, I am ready for one of the best seasons yet. This summer I have been training a lot. Training consists of sprints, long distance, yoga, abdominal workouts, lifting weights, and of course training with the ball. In the midst of training though, I have also been enjoying myself. I took a summer class and worked in the month of May, but in June I spent time with family in Chicago and Cincinnati. I also went to Florida for two weeks with some friends.

During kids' camp I will be starting a video blog called "What's Up With Samantha?" I am really excited to do this blog for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is because it will allow me to share how much fun I have with all my teammates. The laughs and jokes we have are endless.

We have always talked about having our team captured on video and how it would make for good TV, so maybe this will be a good chance for us to become the stars we have always talked about. Haha.

I have started this blog and the video blog though in hopes of getting some more exposure for myself to hopefully get some more recognition for the Lowe's Senior Class Award and for All-American. These are huge national honors, and it would be awesome to be apart of an elite group of individuals that have won these previously. But more later... having family dinner- salmon and broccoli!