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Elizabeth Gambo

Amherst, MA

No pain, no gain; the motto of many athletes, an awful motto to say the least. When I was 9 years old I hurt my shoulder swimming; at the age of 15 I underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Since swimming was out of the question I began running competitively because competition was in my blood. I loved running. I joined the high school track team in winter 2008 as a freshman. I had no goals or expectations I just wanted to stay in shape until I was able to swim again. After the first couple of weeks I was able to keep up with the seniors unlike the rest of the new runners during the workouts; I was so proud of myself. The winter season concluded and I was the only freshman that made it to the county meet for the 600-meter race. My running career skyrocketed after that. I was told I had the potential to be a great runner if I kept training. I joined spring track and my success continued. I was part of an 800-meter relay team that made it to state qualifiers. I knew I had potential. Winter track began early 2009. My times were not decreasing as much as I wanted. I assumed I wasn't training hard enough so I trained extra. I came to a standstill. Winter track ended with great disappointment but I knew spring track would be better. Boy was I wrong. Spring track began and I was motivated to run a 2 minute and 20 second 800-meter.

The season began like every other but I developed a mysterious bruise behind my right knee. I was not in any pain so I assume I must have banged my knee without knowing. I continued to train and the bruised continued to get darker and larger. I have a very high pain tolerance so the pain that I began to feel on the right leg was ignored. I wanted to keep running. I never give up. The bruise behind my knee was about the size of a tennis ball and was tender to touch by mid march. I still ignored the bruise even though many peers told me that I should see a doctor. The next track meet was my last track meet. I was lined up to run the 800-meter, first out of all the freshman and sophomores. The race began and I separated from the group, leading the pack. I was on pace with running a new personal record by the end of the first lap. During the second lap I began to feel a strong sharp pain my hip but I knew I would be able to finish strong, no pain, no gain, right? Wrong. I came around the last curve still in first place, all my peers cheering me on. I began to sprint, give it my all for the last 100 meters of the race. I collapsed with 10 meters to go. I physically was not capable of running another step. I was in such pain I didn't know what to do. That was the end of my high school running career. I was so upset. I was not able to swim or run. I thought I was the unluckiest person in the world.

My parents made an appointment with Dr. Kelly to find out why I was in so much pain. We discovered that the bruised behind my knee was due to internal bleeding from a torn labrum in my hip. Surgery was the only option. I was distraught. I had to undergo another surgery less than two years after my shoulder operation that I was still not fully recovered from. Two surgeries before the age of 18, unbelievable I thought. I decided that the only thing to do was be thankful for the fact I have the opportunity to receive the surgery to heal my labrum. I worked to get full strength in my shoulder so I would be able to swim after the hip surgery. I was going to get back to 100% no matter what. I got hip surgery in the end of July so it would not interfere with school. In October I swam competitively in a swim meet, only three months after the surgery. I remember going to Dr. Kelly for an appointment and he was amazed that I was able to swim competitively so quickly. I was so eager to run again. I was able to gradually start running again that following March. By May, I completed my first triathlon. I came in second place in my age category. I was shocked how quickly I could recover considering I had to relearn to walk in August. If you have the proper attitude anything is possible, within reason. Hip surgery was definitely a burden on my life but I could not imagine my life any differently. Yes I would have been able to further my running career but I would have never gone back to swimming. The friends I made on that swim team I still keep in contact with now. I could not imagine my life without them. I am a firm believer in the motto, everything happens for a reason; even if the reason is not clear at first in the end it will always work out and if it has not worked itself out yet, it is not the end. I got hip surgery four years ago, at the age of 17 and I have not had pain in my hip since! I learned to fully appreciate my body and be grateful I have two working legs and arms. I used to take that for granted and now I know anything can happen, so appreciate what you have in life before it’s gone.