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Lyndsay O’Brien Returns to the Basketball Court

Lyndsay O’Brien smiles as she refers to her two operation scars as her badges of honor.

Scars that are more than just reminders of two painful injuries. They’re reminders of the sacrifices she is willing to make when it comes to getting back something she loves.

On Nov. 30th, O’Brien, a Kenmore East senior, stepped onto the court for the first time in two years after undergoing two knee surgeries.

“It felt amazing,” O’Brien said of her return. “Looking back a year ago when I was going through the whole nightmare, I just thought ‘will there ever be a day when I can be on the court again?’ When I was able to step into the court, especially on that night, it was kind of emotional for me. I was kind of an emotional wreck. But by the end of the game I was so proud of myself for finding the courage to say ‘yes, I’m gonna play this year.'”

O’Brien has reason to be proud as two different ACL surgeries, one on her left knee and the other on her right knee, kept her off of the basketball court since her sophomore season.

O’Brien suffered the first ACL injury to her right knee on Nov. 7th, 2016 during the first day of basketball tryouts.

O’Brien had surgery on Jan. 3rd, 2017. She went through the long rehab process and was eventually cleared to compete again in August.

But Lyndsay’s joy was short-lived as she sustained an injury to her left knee in October. She had a second surgery on Nov. 15th, 2017.

It not only cut short her soccer season, it wiped out all of the 2017-18 basketball season.

“Total devastation,” O’Brien said. “I lost a lot of confidence in myself for a period of time and I had to cling on to something and say this is what my goal is. I need to accomplish this.”

While two surgeries and endless hours of rehab might have made some people say it’s just not worth it and throw in the towel, Lyndsay O’Brien wasn’t going to let the game she loves slip away without a fight.

“What kept me going through the darkest days was that I latched on to the fact that there is a possibility that I can return to my passion,” O’Brien said. “That is what drove me to become motivated enough to return to the court.”

While the road back physically was unlike anything O’Brien could have ever imagined, she said the mental journey was far more taxing.

“Honestly, a lot of people think about the physical devastation of it,” she said. “Having to rebuild full use of your leg muscles. Getting your leg to actually move the way it’s supposed to. Getting strength back, getting motion back. Getting acceleration back. A lot of doctors and people think ‘your leg must hurt all the time.’ But really it’s your head. It’s a complete mental devastation when this occurs to you. Honestly, I’ve taken and learned so much from the experience. Now looking back, the experience that I was given and the things that I see and my life now. It’s completely worth it because I’ve grown as a person.”

Lyndsay had a strong network of support from family and friends throughout the recovery period. The strongest of which came from her older sister, Erin, who ironically enough suffered a similar injury during her sophomore year at Ken-East.

“Even though she was away at college, she was only a call away and I turned to her for guidance and words of encouragement when things got tough,” Lyndsay said.

Lady Bulldogs head coach Les Simon said that Lyndsay is an exceptional young lady who is the product of loving parents, Marci and Kevin, who always throw their full support behind their daughters.

“This school universally respects her,” Simon said. “Any time you hear the name Lyndsay O’Brien you hear ‘great kid. Fine young lady.’ Teachers. Staff. Custodians. Her peers.”

Simon couldn’t help but smile as he told a story about Lyndsay from a summer work out inside the Ken- East weight room.

“It’s August 12th. It’s 90 degrees in here and she’s got a smile on her face,” Simon said. “It just let me know that she really gets it. She cherishes this and she appreciates this. She’s a special kid. You won’t see kids like her come along for a very long time.”

Teammate and childhood friend Victoria Sujka agreed that O’Brien truly is one of a kind.

“Her attitude is so empowering, ” Sujka said. “Even over the summer workouts she knew how to do all the stretches. Telling us what to do and giving constructive criticism. And we all really appreciate it because she knows what she’s talking about. She’s a great captain to have on the floor. Everything about her is great.”

Even in grade school Lyndsay’s work ethic and dedication were clearly evident as she was one of the most energetic ball girls that patrolled the sidelines during Ken-East soccer games.

So it was only fitting that O’Brien would be so thankful when she was healthy enough to return to the soccer team this past fall. But as special as it was, that couldn’t compare to getting back on the basketball court.

More than just a multi-sport athlete, O’Brien is one of Ken-East’s most complete students and someone who represents the school with class and character.

O’Brien is a member of the National Honor Society, the French National Honor Society, a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Council and worked on the school paper. O’Brien has also served as a volunteer coach for Special Olympics and soccer coach with Sports Stars Skills and Drills.

O’Brien’s character wasn’t just revealed by how hard she fought to get back to playing, but more so by the way she carried herself while she was unable to play. No matter how much she was hurting to be on the court last year, O’Brien never let her misfortune turn into a distraction for the team.

“I got the job a week before the season started and Lyndsay became my right-hand woman,” Simon said. “She was like another coach for me. There at practice every day imparting her knowledge of the game. Being a great teammate. Making sure we had good unity and caring. And what she did behind the scenes was invaluable and that had to be hard. Can you imagine a second ACL injury? The character she’s displaying is just lights out.”

She was always around practices and every game cheering her teammates on and doing anything she could to contribute.

“As a player that’s injured you never want to weigh down your team negatively,” O’Brien said. “You want to be their cheerleader. You want to say ‘yeah this is unfortunate what happened to me, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. So stay positive out there and be excited that you can play because it can be taken away from you in an instant.'”

“I’m so happy to see her back on the court doing as well as she is,” Sujka said.

That, perhaps more than anything, is Lyndsay O’Brien’s best take away from this journey.

To not only learn how to appreciate what you have, but also how to keep moving forward when that precious item has been taken away.

“My two scars on my knees have become a part of me,” O’Brien said. “These are my badges of honor. I wear them proud.”

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