Girl Power: Rolling with the Punches
Heading into her junior year of high school, Payton Hrncir was enjoying the summer, looking forward to starting volleyball practice and making another run at the state tournament.
And then, over the fourth of July holiday, life came crashing down.
"You know, when the crash happened and I was laying there, waiting for the ambulance to come…it was like, I knew," she said. "I just knew, you know?"
Payton was in an ATV accident and suffered a severe back injury paralyzing her from the waist down.
"You try to convince yourself that everything is going to be okay, and, you know you just put all your faith in the Lord and your family and go from there," her father and Wink athletic director Andy Hrncir said. "It's still kind of a shock to everybody."
Even discussing the horrible events from this summer, she still somehow manages a smile. No tears, no pity…just happiness and acceptance.
"I kind of had it in my head that I'll be walking in a month, it's no big deal, I can do that," Payton said with a grin, "but, now I'm kind of realizing, I'm over that shock that alright, this is real you gotta just keep working hard and pushing forward."
While her attitude and spirit have been overwhelmingly positive, moving forward has been challenging in ways Payton hadn't even thought of.
"The thing that bothers me the most is I can't just get up and go," she said with a snap of her fingers. "Everything takes a little bit longer, I have to check to see what time it is all the time, you know? You really use your legs for a lot more. Even just sitting up! I couldn't sit up on a table I would just fall down. It scared me to death. I guess because you don't feel your legs you don't feel that balance, so, that was the hardest thing for me, just getting over that fear of falling and getting my balance back and stuff like that."
What she didn't know was there was no way her community would let her fall. While Payton was learning to adjust to her new life, back in Wink her friends and neighbors were working on rehabilitating her house so the change would be less bumpy.
"I hadn't even thought about the house," Andy said. "I remember Amy saying to me that people were working on the house. And I said, 'What are they doing to the house? What's wrong with the house?' And she said, 'No, they are making it accessible for Payton.'"
He gives me a tour of the changes and describes how much time and effort the community gave to help make Payton's homecoming less severe.
"What they did was they came in and put this hardwood floor ramp here so she has access to her room," he said leading into her room.
He then turns, and gestures to a good size walk-in shower describing the transformation.
"They put this bathroom in here which didn't look anything like this. There was a tub here so they had to knock it and widen it. And they put all new plumbing in there."
He then stands back and gazes like he can see the reconstruction happening in front of his eyes.
"If something goes wrong, they ban together; and, what they've done for our family and what they've done for her number one, it's absolutely incredible," Andy said. "This school district, this community, there is no place else we'd rather be I can promise you that."
"I was like oh my gosh this is so cool!" Payton exclaimed, remembering her reaction when she came home. "It was like Extreme Makeover Home Edition! It was so pretty! I love it. It was really nice and stuff and everybody was there. It's just crazy how many people were there. There were people there that I don't even know working on the house so it's amazing that people would do something like that for you."
At the end of my conversation with Payton, I had to ask her a question that I have a feeling she's been waiting to answer.
"What would you say to all the people that have been there for you?" I asked.
"I really...that's kind of the hard thing...I can't explain how much it means to me and my family and stuff..."
And it's here, for the first time in our conversation and still through a smile, that Payton cries.
"I really don't know what else to say besides thank you," she says through smiling sobs.
Not thinking of what happened to her…but thinking of the community that was there for her.