Time for a good ol’ inspirational story to get you motivated! We often try to share stories that you can relate to, in hopes that you will find your own “take aways” to apply to your own life. Today, we have a guest blogger, who is an amazing individual. Ella has been physically and psychologically tested in life, but continues to grow and prosper. I think we can all find at least one “take away” from her story. -Jillian
This is Ella Anne Kociuba and this is her story.
First off, I am nothing special. I have not made history nor have I discovered something outstanding, invented something useful, or saved the world. My name will soon be forgotten, it will most likely not be written down in history books for future generations to learn about. To the world I am nothing but a grain of sand in your shoe. That annoying little specimen that you can’t seem to find, no matter how hard you look but still you know something is in there, somewhere. That’s me. I’m there, I’m somewhere in this world trying to get you to look around at what’s to become of you.
And for two years now I have been competing in endurance and obstacle events across America. I first got signed at the age of eighteen and shit sort of took off from there. I am currently twenty years old and my story of how I got to where I am today.. ha, well.. let’s just say, it wasn’t and isn’t easy. But you all should know this by now, that anything you want in life and if it’s worth it, it will not be easy. I like to joke and say that, ‘I am THE accident prone athlete’ and you’ll find out why here in a bit.
In case you are unaware of my story, enjoy a summary of my destruction:
At the young age of twelve, I was highly dedicated and competitive in Endurance Riding. Endurance riding is an equestrian sport, held usually on private ranches or national parks, where horse and rider must complete mandatory vet checks and ride the marked course through the land as fast as one can while making all the vet check standards. Races vary from twenty-five to hundred miles long but I mainly compete in twenty-five and fifty mile courses.
When one late evening, I took my horse, Socks, out for a training ride. A beautiful evening turned into a beautiful disaster (oh how cliche, I know!). Socks was spooked so suddenly by a deer jumping out in front of us and Iwas thrown off.
The initial fall broke the L4 and L5 in my spine, but somehow, I went an entire year without finding out. Yes, a whole year, 365 days(+-) of shit. I went to five different doctors, had numerous amount of x-rays, MRI’s, hard plastic back braces that went from my neck to my pelvic bone, laser therapy, chiropractor work, physical therapy, and heavy, heavy medications to cure me. But nothing was working and nothing was showing anything really wrong with me. I was no longer walking, sleeping, eating, smiling, I was no longer aware of my surroundings because the pain and sadness I felt consumed me. One chiropractor suggested I try decompression (decompression is a method where a strap is secured tightly around both ribcage and hips, then a machine slowly pulls from opposite ends). Because looking at my MRI, I had slipping disc’s and this would help me or so they said. We started the treatment and sure enough after a couple visits, something terrible happened.
Imagine what a guitar string looks like when it is pulled too tightly, it splits from it’s ends in a very chaotic way, well, this was my back.. This was how the tendons and muscles in my lower back felt like, they were splitting. The machine was literally pulling me apart. Darkness. Turns out the chiropractor who was working on me was not licensed to look at an MRI, so we had a decision of suing her for almost paralyzing me and lying to us but we resulted in not doing so and demanded our money and to stop their practice. A couple weeks later after the incident and I am still disabled. We found a back specialist, who said: “You need to go in for exploratory surgery soon, or you will be crippled.” On February 19th, 2007, they went in for an expected five hour surgery which turned out to be nine and a half hours long.
And what they discovered, was the reason behind my chronic pain and every single spinal misdiagnoses from past doctors. My doctor found a huge block of bone that was hiding a birth defect! It turns out my spine was never connected to my sacrum since birth! In addition, I was also was suffering from spondylolisthesis (a condition where a vertebra in the spine slips out of the proper position and falls onto the vertebra below it) with four vertebras. Of course, I had an insane amount of nerve damage, including nerve damage up into my neck from past back braces and the sciatic nerve which caused my left leg to be numb and tingly. Let’s not forgot to mention, I was battling depression due to missing out on my childhood activities, being with friends, walking around, sleeping, riding my horse, getting out of the bathtub without crying for my mother, having doctors give me ‘you’re just a baby’ diagnose for all my suffering, and just simply being pain free.
Ella and Jillian
So, there I was, thirteen years old with four brand new metal rods, six screws drilled into my spine and sacrum just so I could walk and run around again. But I was informed that, “I may never play sports or ride my horse again.” Digesting these words burned more than heartburn can ever burn. And for two years, I went to physical therapy, two times a week and patiently worked towards my grim future.
Despite the struggle, my sophomore year of high school I began to run again and ride my horse, I cannot tell you how happy this made me. While my career in high school wasn’t so picture perfect, I wasn’t the best athlete on the team, I didn’t make newspapers, colleges didn’t know who I was, but I never once stopped pushing forward and giving my absolute best. Sure enough, after graduating, I started to excel rapidly in my fitness pursuits. I shut out everything that threw me off track and focused, I wanted to become something great so badly that it was my only thought. After a couple months of serious training and I found myself winning just about everything I entered into. I was contacted by a few sponsors and finally signed my first one, Flag Nor Fail, which turned out to change my life in the best way ever. After signing, I started competing out of Texas and found my name spreading, my story everywhere, and my smile becoming brighter than ever.
While my past battle quickly challenged me with the worst but slowly changed me into my best, I am still being tested with adversity to this day and battle after battle, punch after punch, I continue to fight. I have collected all the excuses in the world to use but shoved them down a drain, cause I cannot and will not ever give up on myself.
Not only is Ella’s story inspiring, I think she makes an amazing point in her story. Throughout life you are going to go through many different trials and tribulations, but regardless of that it is important to keep focused and keep your mind set on the bigger picture. That you CANNOT give up. You have come this far, why stop now?
It you would like to follow Ella on her journey check her out on her blog or her facebook!