WASHINGTON, D.C. – NOV. 7, 2019 - Drawing huge crowds and an international audience of super fans, women’s soccer has captured the world’s imagination. Australian 24-year old Hayley Raso was among the elite athletes in play at the World Cup in France this past summer, helping her team make it to the second round. But before she traveled to France in June, Hayley had played an eventful game in the nation’s capital in August 2018.
As a member of the Portland, Oregon, Thorns in the NWSL, Hayley and her team faced the Washington Spirit for a regular season game when the Washington goalie’s knee collided with Hayley’s back while both were trying to head a ball.
“A long ball was kicked into the air toward the goal,” she explains. “Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my back and then I was on the ground in incredible pain calling out ‘help me, help me.’”
Hayley was rushed by ambulance to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. While details are unclear, she does remember hearing some discussion about internal bleeding and damage to her kidneys. “But after a CT-scan the neurosurgeon told me the good news was my kidneys were fine. But the bad news was I had broken my back.”
Her dad, who was in the stands that day, met Hayley at the hospital and her mom Renaye Sweeting rushed from her home in Australia’s Gold Coast to be with her. “I thought I wasn’t going to ever walk again,” she says. “But the doctors explained that I would recover.”
Still, Hayley had a hard road ahead. Soccer had been an important part of her life since she was just 8 years old—and the thought of never playing again was terrifying.
After a week at MedStar Georgetown, she was transferred to MedStar NRH where she was met by Robert Bunning, MD, Director, Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Programs.
“Hayley was fortunate because while she had three lumbar vertebra transverse process fractures, the breaks were not part of the vertebral body and there was no nerve damage,” Dr. Bunning explains. “But she would have to have hours of physical and occupational therapy to learn to walk and complete the tasks of daily living.”
With her “mum” by her side, Hayley approached rehab with the same strength and motivation that made her a world class athlete.
“Dr. Bunning and the whole team looked after me,” she says. “And my physical therapist Camille Grzelak helped me so much. For three hours a day I did physical therapy and occupational therapy. I remember I could hardly roll over in bed when I got to MedStar NRH. But every day I got a little better. My mum slept beside and was with me 24.7,” Hayley says.
She moved out of bed to walking with a frame and ultimately, she was walking with just the aid of a brace. Three weeks after she entered the hospital’s doors, Hayley left MedStar NRH and flew home to Brisbane where she continued her therapy.
Then after months of grueling therapy and just six months after the accident, Hayley returned to the pitch to play with the Australian national team in the Cup of Nations.
“When I ran for the first time and played for the first time it was pretty overwhelming for me and so exciting after everything I’d been through,” she says.
By the end of January, Hayley had scored her first goal. And then in June she joined the Australian team to play in the World Cup. “The whole time I was doing rehab I kept thinking about the Cup,” she says. “Despite the team’s somewhat disappointing result, it was an amazing experience and I’m so grateful to have been able to continue to play the game I love.”
About MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
The MedStar National Rehabilitation Network is a regional system of rehabilitation care that offers inpatient, day treatment and outpatient services in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia.
The Network’s interdisciplinary team of rehabilitation experts provides comprehensive services to help people recover as fully as possible following illness and injury. Rehabilitation medicine specialists, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists work hand-in-hand with other rehab professionals to design treatment plans tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Rehabilitation plans feature a team approach and include the use of state-of-the-art technology and advanced medical treatment based on the latest rehabilitation research.
The Network provides comprehensive programs specifically designed to aid in the rehabilitation of adults and children recovering from neurologic and orthopaedic conditions such as amputation, arthritis, back and neck pain, brain injury, cancer, cardiac conditions, concussion, fibromyalgia, foot and ankle disorders, hand and upper extremity problems, post-polio syndrome, stroke, spinal cord injury and disease, and sports and work-related injuries.
Inpatient and day treatment programs are provided at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital located in Northwest Washington, DC and at more than 50 outpatient sites conveniently located throughout the region. MedStar National Rehabilitation Network is fully accredited by The Joint Commission, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), with CARF accredited specialty programs for Amputations, Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury and Stroke.
For more on MedStar National Rehabilitation Network and to find a location near you, log on to MedStarNRH.org.