In August, 16-year-old midfielder Cassy Rowe was taking possession of the ball during a club soccer game when the unexpected happened.
“In an instant, she lost her feet,” said her coach Dick Gordon. “She came down like an arrow, right straight down. She hit me on my knee, hit the ground and never moved. When I got up, she was laying there crooked. She said, ‘I can’t feel my legs.’”
To lose the use of her limbs was devastating for the ambitious and athletic Roseville teenager. Doctors at Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento told Rowe she is a quadriplegic who would never play soccer again.
“I’ve haven’t been able to watch soccer,” said Rowe. “It’s almost like I don’t have an interest for it, just not totally the same way I did.”
Her mother Suzette Docherty, a substitute teacher, has taken over her complete care full time.
“When Cassy asks ‘why did God do this to me?’ I don’t have an answer for her,” Docherty said. “I can’t begin to find the answers. I don’t know his plan but it will be revealed.”
Slowly, Rowe turned back to soccer and is once again on the field, this time on the sidelines.
“The team is my family,” Rowe said.
In the last four months, her community has been galvanized by her story, building her a new wheelchair accessible bathroom free of charge. Last month, her dance team held a fundraiser for her at Roseville High School.
“There have been tens of thousands of dollars that have come out of the pockets of this family that are not covered by insurance,” said Coach Gordon. “It’s an awful thing.”
Rowe wants to participate in a cutting edge surgery in Germany, which would use her bone marrow and could cost more than $10,000.
Gordon helped organize the Cassy Rowe Benefit Soccer Tournament, which was played last weekend at six different stadiums around the Sacramento area. The event was set up to raise nearly $16,000 for the family’s medical expenses.
The organizers intend to make the tourney an annual event. This year, 40 teams paid to participate, and the entry fees will be used to assist the Rowe family. Next year, they intend to expand to include more than 25 teams from Southern California.
This week, Rowe is going back to Shriner’s Hospital to find out where her therapy will take her and how to explore her ultimate goal.
“Most definitely (my goal is) to walk,” said Rowe. “I want to get as much movement as I can.”
Rowe has been able to raise her arms and wrists, which allows her to control her mechanized wheelchair. She said she’s amazed to be able to wiggle both thumbs just in the last few weeks.
“If there is one person that can walk again it is Cassy,” said her team’s assistant coach Martin Cirby.
“She was sometimes hard to coach because she was so strong willed,” said Coach Gordon. “She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve come across. That’s why I have so much confidence in her.”
Her story has been an inspiration to her teammates on the Sierra Xtreme girls soccer team where her name will always remain on the roster.
“Yes. I still want to coach,” Rowe said.
If you ask her teammates, she’s accomplished that already.
“She’s our coach,” said 16-year-old Erika Oste.
“If it was someone else they would have shut down,” said 16-year-old teammate Kelsey Taylor. “She has such a strong will, it’s almost a minor setback for her.”
Taylor said Rowe is a team captain and even to this day shouts from the sideline.
Rowe said she gained determination from other patients in her situation and wants nothing more than to continue to be an impact for her team and others.
“Don’t give up,” Rowe said. “Never give up. Just keep going strong because everyday you’ll get a little more back. You’ll be surprised what you can do with what little you have.”
To learn more about Cassy’s story, log on to her blog:
To contribute to the foundation for Cassy Rowe:NTAF Southwest Spinal Cord Injury Fund In Honor of Cassy Rowe
150 N. Radnor Chester Road, Suite f120 Radnor, PA 19807