Josie Lord is a hard-nosed softball player. She's always diving for popups and running full speed on the bases.
Even though she goes all out 100 percent of the time, Lord had never been injured. But that changed on Sept. 14. It was a moment that almost changed her entire life forever.
Lord and her teammates on the St. Pius X Catholic (Atlanta) softball team were in Chattanooga, Tenn. for a tournament. Lord, who is the team's ace pitcher and leading hitter out of the No. 4 hole, was at the plate during the middle of the first game. The junior hit a blooper between first and second base. As she raced down the chalk line, the second baseman came over to cover the bag. There wasn't a safety base at first, so the two players collided. Lord went airborne and landed on her neck and head.
The second baseman got up quickly and was fine. However, Lord stayed down.
"I remember hitting the ground and immediately I was like, ‘Something's wrong,' " Lord said. "It hurt so bad. I was like bawling my eyes out, and I never ever cry. … When I found out I didn't have feeling in the right side of my body, I was like, ‘Wow. I can't believe this is happening.'
"I saw how precious life is and how anything can just change in a moment.”
"I was devastated."
The trainer ran over to Lord as did the St. Pius coaches. An ambulance was immediately dispatched as Lord was told not to move, her helmet was left on and her neck was supported. St. Pius head coach Amie McDougal, who was in the third base coaching box watching the play unfold, said Lord was answering questions properly and was fully away of her surroundings. However, Lord was complaining of numbness.
"I was basically paralyzed on the right side of my body," Lord said. "I couldn't move the right side at all."
Jeanne Lord, Josie's mom, was sitting with the crowd running the team's GameChanger app, keeping track of the game statistics. She didn't see the bang-bang play because she was entering in stats. However, when Jeanne Lord looked up, she quickly realized the severity of the situation.
"It was pretty surreal," she said.
Jeanne Lord went in the ambulance with her daughter for the short trip to Children's Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga.
Almost 45 minutes had elapsed from when the collision occurred to when Lord left the field. Lord's teammates and everyone around her were visibly shaken. However, the two teams finished out the final couple innings.
"Mentally, the girls were done," McDougal said. "There were so many emotions in our dugout. Girls were crying, the other team was crying. They came over and prayed with us several times."
When Lord arrived at the hospital, she had a number of tests administered on her on the children's side of the hospital before moving to the adult section to undergo such things as an MRI, CT scans and heart tests.
"They thought she was going to be in there a long time because they put on adhesive padding so you don't get bed sores," Jeanne Lord said. "They were just trying to be nice saying you're going to be there for the week kind of thing — obviously thinking longer than that."
Since it was later in the day on a Friday, the neurosurgeon was gone for the night and wasn't going to return until the morning. There was still plenty of uncertainty.
Word of Lord's injury traveled fast. She was scheduled to travel to Europe in January to play in a softball tournament. When her coach for the tournament found out, he sent a prayer blast that reached plenty of big-name softball figures, including U.S. Olympians Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman.
"It's kind of weird because (news) spread really, really fast on Facebook, so some of the times that they wouldn't let me be with her, people were friend requesting me," Jeanne Lord said. "There were people I didn't know — nobody bad like trying to take advantage of it — but so many people there for me."
The wait until the next morning was excruciating for Lord and her mom.
"I didn't sleep at all," Lord said. "They didn't say I could sleep, so I was basically up the whole night and it felt like the longest night ever. Around 8 a.m., the nurse and surgeons finally came and once they looked at all the scans, I regained feeling on the right side of my body. It was absolutely crazy because the nurses said they never would have thought I'd get it back. They said I was going to be there at least a week."
And just like that, Lord was back to normal.
For her determined comeback, her athletic excellence, performance in the classroom and community, Lord was selected Semper Fidelis Athlete of the Month, presented by the Marines.
She’ll have the opportunity to attend the Battles Won Academy in Washington, D.C. this summer.
The doctors surmised Lord had suffered a stinger that lasted about 10 hours. The doctors also explained when the body has a traumatic similar to what Lord suffered, it goes into a state of shock to protect itself from more damage. That could have also been the reason for the paralysis.
"I was discharged with no limitations," said Lord, who found out through all the tests she has a cyst the size of a pencil eraser in her brain, unrelated to the softball injury, that she will have to have monitored in the future. "I was allowed to drive. I was allowed to go to school. They let me walk down the hospital steps. I wasn't even discharged in a wheelchair."
Of course, the first thought in Lord's mind was: How quickly can I play softball again?
She was stoked to try and surpass the 100-strikeout mark as a pitcher for the first time in her career.
When Lord went back to school a couple days later, the school trainer thought she might have suffered a concussion during her fall. In fact, she did. Lord failed two concussion tests before passing on Friday, the same day her softball team was competing in its next tournament.
"It was definitely self-determination that she wanted to get back out there," Jeanne Lord said. "I was pretty nervous, not for her pitching, I was nervous for her running the bases because she has no fear normally."
Lord got out in the circle with a renewed sense of appreciation for life and for the sport she loves. And she took away a valuable life lesson.
"God always has a plan for whatever's going to happen," Lord said. "Through that accident, it really opened my eyes and I saw how precious life is and how anything can just change in a moment."
Lord struck out 22 batters in the three-game tournament to surpass 100 K's. The right-hander finished with 112 strikeouts for the season. Lord closed out her junior campaign with a 13-9 record and a 2.26 ERA and was named second-team all-region at the position.
Lord has seven pitches in her repertoire. She's very good at knowing when to use each pitch, noted her coach.
"Usually you have a pitcher that's just really fast or you have a pitcher that has good movement," McDougal said. "She's got both."
For how solid Lord was as a pitcher, she was equally great at the plate. As the cleanup hitter, she hit .460 with a grand slam and 19 RBIs. She has 20 career home runs.
Lord, who plays on the club team Texas Glory 18U, has aspirations to play softball in college. She is getting recruited as a pitcher and position player by small Division I schools, along with D-II, D-III and NAIA universities.
The 16-year-old is leaning toward playing at a lower division because she knows if she commits to a Division I school, the commitment level is extremely intense.
"A lot of people think that softball is my main priority because I spend so much time doing it, but school would be bigger," Lord said. "I take my grades really seriously."
Holding a 3.5 grade point average, Lord is a student ambassador at St. Pius and is involved in Spanish Club and sings in the group Chorus.
Through school, Lord has to take part in certain number of community service activities. She coaches a 10U softball team, gives blood and routinely helps an elderly neighbor around his house and with grocery shopping. She also volunteers at Great Pyrenees Rescue of Atlanta, helping foster dogs.
Since August, Lord has been painting canvases for Atlanta-area hospitals. She is given a sketch of what to paint and she fills it in and they displayed in hospital rooms.
"She just always seems to be a giver instead of a taker," said her mom.
With Lord "paying it forward" as much as possible, she was the recipient of great news when her life was almost turned upside down with the softball injury. But she rebounded in a big way.
"It was a miracle," Lord said. "With everyone knowing and praying and stuff, I really think it was a miracle."