For professional triathlete Janelle Morrison the difference of 10 minutes could have meant a very different life.
It wasn’t time lost in transition or catching a headwind on the bike, but the 10 minutes of leeway being stuck inside her vehicle after a head-on accident near Revelstoke just two months ago that meant the difference of keeping her leg. Last Saturday during a spin-a-thon fundraiser Morrison found out just exactly how close that life-changing moment was.
“They told me I was in the car for three-and-a-half hours and I couldn’t get out because my feet were jammed next to the console. They actually had the tools ready to amputate my leg to get me out,” said Morrison, who was told this story by a family in town by coincidence for a hockey tournament that had been the first to arrive on the scene of the accident. “It was 10 minutes and they were going to have to amputate me because my vitals were dropping so badly and they had run out of fluids. It was life over limb.”
Rescuers arrived before that took place, using the jaws of life to pull her out. The athlete was rushed to Kamloops hospital where she underwent several surgeries to move her diaphragm and stomach out of her chest, repair her femur, tibia and arm.
On Tuesday she was waiting for a second set of X-rays to give her the green light to move from a wheelchair to crutches. Doctors said it was her high level of fitness that helped her survive. Friends said it is her will and determination. Morrison said it is the support she has received from around the world that has helped her, including the first words she read after awakening from intubation.
During a chance encounter with Olympic athlete Silken Laumann in the Vancouver airport on their way to Kamloops to see their daughter for the first time since the accident, Morrison’s mom explained her daughter’s story. Laumann is most known for overcoming her own devastating accident only 10 weeks before the 1992 Olympics only to come back and win a bronze medal in rowing. The Olympic rower returned to Morrison’s mom later with a card. In it she wrote there are three things that will help Morrison through recovery, including the power of a dream. For Morrison that includes continuing to be a professional triathlete.
“I really do have a dream and always have a dream. It is kind of something that doesn’t die easily. And secondly (Laumann) said the will to make the dream happen, and I have a really strong will. I am pretty determined so that comes into play. She also said the belief that your dream can come true and I do believe it,” said Morrison. “I have a lofty goal and a long road, but I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was possible.”
Morrison said ties have grown stronger with family, friends and especially with her sponsor TriCommitment who have also stuck by her.
“I want to thank absolutely everyone in the community of Penticton to begin with and around the world too. I’m completely overwhelmed and I want people to know the impact it makes on my recovery process to have people that believe in my recovery as much as I do,” said Morrison.
Saturday’s fundraiser brought in about $7,000, which Morrison is giving a portion to KidSport. An online auction continues through the week at www.tricommitment.com, where bids are being accepted on items from high-profile athletes.