There is an old saying - 'Whenever you make plans, Fate laughs.' Brookfield Central senior Claire Haynes had big plans for the 2016-17 girls basketball season.
She wanted to repeat being a All-Greater Metro Conference first-team performer. She wanted the Lancers to win the conference championship. She wanted to go to the WIAA State Championship Tournament.
All that was put on hold on Nov. 25 when she dove for a loose ball and a Germantown player fell on top of her and slammed a knee into Claire's back. As a result, She broke two transverse processes (small bony projections off the right and left side of each vertebrae in the lumbar 2 & 3 lower back). It is a not an injury you see on a basketball court.
Haynes recalled the incident recently.
"Right away I went 'Oh that hurts.' So I rolled over just to take a breath, try to regain my head and go 'Oh it's fine.' But I could not lift my head. I thought 'Oh my God' something is wrong.'
"They put me in a room and I could not get comfortable. I was in so much pain I passed out. It was so nice (passing out). I got kind of comfortable. They called the ambulance they had five of the nicest EMTs."
They went to the hospital she got a cat-scan, MRI, but she couldn't lift her head for the first two days. When all the tests were finished and finally diagnosed, Claire was told she would be OK.
"I'm so blessed," Claire said. "Sure I was (probably) missing my senior year of basketball, but I'm going to be OK."
Claire's mom Debbie recalled the moment like only a mother can.
"When they lifted her up and I saw her face that's when I knew it was pretty serious," Debbie said. "To see her in so much pain was scary. She is very tough. Seeing her in that much pain shook everybody up."
After the diagnosis was finally cleared up, Debbie had four words to describe her feelings.
"Numb, relieved, what's next?" she said after some thought.
What happened after that was what Claire Haynes is all about - a person who thinks of others first.
"I just wanted people to know I was going to be OK," she said, choking up while remembering the early days of the injury. "I didn't want them to worry. I knew people worried about me. I didn't want them to worry more. When you hear 'she broke her back' you wonder 'Is she going to walk again?'
"At first I didn't want to tell anyone (about how she felt). I wanted to get myself believing it so if they asked 'Oh my God are you OK?' I wanted to say 'Yeah, I'm fine.' I might be playing at the end of the season, I might not.' I want to play soccer (first-team All-GMC as a junior). Yes, the back injury is bad, but I got lucky."
"My teachers, my team, they were all really nice, but I was like 'Thank you, I'll be OK but I will kind of be laid up for awhile."
Debbie Haynes talked about people's response to her daughter's injury.
"I was proud of her," she said, pausing before adding. "I was touched by the outpouring. Not just from BC community but from other teams, other coaches.
"It was moving to see that kind of basketball family. Cards, text messages, emails, visits, phone calls. It was a tremendous outpouring from the community, not just the basketball community."
Debbie also made sure to reach out to the Brookfield Central administration and faculty.
"They were incredibly accommodating and supportive of her. They made the transition for her from home to school easier. The teachers have been amazing, giving her the time and support she needs. The administration had all of her accommodations set up before she went back.
"From a mother's perspective that was amazing."
Maybe in a few weeks I will be able to jog around and put up some shots. I’m doing really well. …Maybe I can see the court.”
- Claire Haynes
Claire talked about the long road back.
"I was in the hospital four days, learning how to use a walker," she said. "I had lots of visitors. My team was so nice, so understanding. I was able to get up the third day, lift my head up and sit up. On the fourth day I was walking with a walker and I was able to do stuff on my own. I was there four days, three nights."
The second week she was home, she had no school, just trying to walk. She did a lot of mall walking, to see how everything worked.
"I felt back to my normal self and felt great," Claire said. "It was a lot like any broken bone. It takes eight weeks for the bone to actually heal. It was actually the healing process of all the muscle and nerve damage I had, the doctor couldn't give me an exact date. Maybe I come back, maybe I don't.
"The third week I was at school for half days, trying to get back to normal to get caught up. The fourth week I started full days and PT (at Freedom Therapy), doing some biking.
"I had to wear a special brace, have a special chair with a high back, with a pillow. I had someone carry all my books around. All my teachers, all my friends were so nice about it. I slowly got better and now I'm practically normal."
Debbie talked about watching Claire go through what she has.
"As a mother, it's always difficult to watch your child struggle," she said. "Physically to relearn to do things, mentally to adjust her dreams and goals. It's hard, especially being her senior year. Knowing how much she was looking forward to it and how she was excited for the year.
"She has a great attitude, working hard, setting new goals for herself," she said. "Outside of when she was first injured, I have never seen her cry. Her thoughts are now with her teammates and the success that's ahead for them."
Not surprising Claire is still involved with the basketball team, which got off to a 3-5 overall start and 1-2 in the GMC.
She spends half the practice with the trainer (Greg Lucas, Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital) and biking. In the other half she is in the gym.
"I'm trying to make sure I'm current with it," she said. "The games, it hasn't gotten easier, but we've been better, which is all I can ask for. I'm happy I guess. Other people are stepping up and are really playing well.
"This injury put myself and everyone else in a tough situation. It's hard because I know what the situation would be if I was out there."
"I'm good, I'm busy, which finally feels good," she said. "I have to do my exercises, two-three times a day, an hour or so. At school I finally caught up. I can't go ice skating with my friends or sledding, but I've been able to spend more time with them.
"Maybe in a few weeks I will be able to jog around and put up some shots. I'm doing really well. I started working out elliptically which is really nice. We might want to do a little jump rope. Maybe I can see the court."
Claire has been a captain since her sophomore season. She still tries to help out with those duties any way she can.
"I do what I can - everyone still respects me," she said. "They know what I can do. But it's a lot harder when you are off the court to tell them this is what they can do better. I'm on the outside and see everything happening. Maybe I can change that in a few weeks."
Whatever happens, happens. But I will say this - I wouldn't bet against her.
QUESTIONS FOR CLAIRE HAYNES
- FAVORITE FOOD: Anything Chocolate
- FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Country Music.
- FAVORITE MOVIE: Harry Potter Series.
- FAVORITE TV SHOW: The Office, Friends.
- FAVORITE CLASS: Math.
- FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Boundary Waters, Canada (Church Camp).
- WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Sleep.
- FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Divine Savior Holy Angels, MUHS
- MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: My injury this year. But several good ones.
- WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Attend University of Minnesota. Major in College of Science & Engineering. Maybe take a double major in Spanish.