BYU student returns to school with a new perspective

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Madeline Hardy was once a typical BYU student with concerns about grades, boys and her plans for the weekend, but that all changed after a tragic rock climbing accident.

On Dec. 18, 2012, Hardy’s family dropped her off at a climbing center after dinner. Even though this was routine, they couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off.

Madeline Hardy recovers in the hospital surrounded by nieces and nephews. Hardy suffered major fractures in her arms and pelvis, but is now fully rehabilitated, running again and attending school. (Photo courtesy Madeline Hardy)
Madeline Hardy recovers in the hospital surrounded by nieces and nephews. Hardy suffered major fractures in her arms and pelvis, but is now fully rehabilitated, running again and attending school. (Photo courtesy Madeline Hardy)

“We were rushed to get there and my dad was being super weird about it, he was like ‘are you going to be OK? Call me if you need anything.’ He was really wary and very concerned about me,” Hardy said. “At the same time my mom got a pretty strong feeling that she needed to pray for me.”

Hardy was planning on getting her wisdom teeth removed the next day and planned on climbing with friends to ease her stress about the surgery.

“I was hurried through because it was a really busy night. I didn’t even sign a waiver, they just handed me my gear and let me go free,” Hardy said. “Luckily I knew enough about rock climbing to get my gear on right. They didn’t even check anything.”

Hardy hooked up her rope and began to climb. At about 30 feet, Hardy was just one grab away from the top.

“I had one more rock to reach for and I was barely too short for it. So, being the daredevil I am, I decided to jump for it, knowing the rope would catch me if I fell. So I jumped for it and I missed,” Hardy said.

As Hardy began to fall another climber’s rope wrapped around her leg, dislodging her and sending her head first to the ground. Instinctively, she put her arms out to protect her head and upon impact, lost consciousness.

“As I woke up I was on the ground. I couldn’t breathe and one of the girls held me still because I was pretty out of it,” Hardy said. “I obviously should have been scared to death but I wasn’t, I was really aware and I felt peace knowing that everything would be alright.”

Once at the hospital, X-rays revealed that Hardy had 10 fractures, including one compound fracture in each of her arms and three fractures in her pelvis. Thankfully for Hardy, she experienced no internal bleeding, hemorrhaging or head trauma.

“I kept hoping it was a nightmare and that I would wake up, but that wasn’t the case,” she said.

After two surgeries, four metal plates in each arm and a Christmas spent in the hospital, Hardy returned home on New Year’s Day. Doctors told her she would never be able to run long distance again.

At this time in Hardy’s life, Bonnie Jensen, her grandmother, became a personal coach and close friend.

“Before all of this happened (Hardy) had no idea how strong she was. … She was even timid in the beginning to take a step because it was so painful. After she took her first step I just watched her go,” Jensen said.

Years ago, Jensen went on a trip to Australia, came down with strep throat and was later diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome and gangrene. She had both legs amputated and had to learn how to walk again.

With Jensen’s experience, she was able to truly understand and help Hardy.

“Everyone has trials like these and family is a great support system but you still feel lonely because no really one knows inside what you’re going through and they can’t fix that, but my grandma was there and she understood me,” Hardy said.

Hardy’s rehabilitation was brutal as she reconditioned herself to walk with a broken pelvis. It began with just a step and moved on to assisted walks around the house. It was a journey of tears, pain and endurance.

“The biggest thing I learned about was faith. There were times when it was hard and it sucked. But I learned that it wasn’t about being perfect but about being enough,” Hardy said.

Six months later, Hardy is back at BYU as a junior studying special education. She’s currently preparing for a 10K and is consistently running two miles, a miracle in the eyes of her family and those closest to her.

“When I first saw (her) in the emergency room I knew this was going to be a life changer,” said David Hassinger, Hardy’s surgeon. “But (she overcame her setbacks) through her aggressive and persistent approach.”

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