Prior to the start of every school year, Ron Wallman takes each of his four children individually for a day of bonding. His daughter Lexi tends to be the most adventurous of his offspring, so on July 22, the two of them went down to Nashville to ride four-wheelers for the day.
With the hills of Brown County throwing their usual curveballs, Lexi certainly didn’t need any extra ones.
“There was a dog that would come and kind of run next to us or beside us,” she recalled, “and then it would run away and come back. It was toward the end, and the dog came back, and we were going to go down a hill and to the right … and it was pretty narrow. And then the dog came out, and it kind of scared me and I was kind of confused.”
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Lexi hit a log on the side of the trail, and she and her four-wheeler went flying.
“I look up,” Ron Wallman recalled, “and literally, she is airborne, her four-wheeler is airborne — and I start yelling, ‘Lexi!’”
Lexi and her vehicle landed at the bottom of a dry creek bed, about eight to 10 feet below the trail she had been on just moments earlier. The trail guide got there first, followed by Dad, who asked if his daughter was OK.
“The first thing I remember her saying is, ‘Yes,’” Ron Wallman said. “And then immediately it was, “My arm’s broken.” And I’m like, “Oh, no.”
This wasn’t the first time Lexi Wallman had been injured in an accident of this sort. When she was 10, she was a passenger in a go-kart at a family Fourth of July party, and the kart rolled, leaving her with a broken right arm and a dislocated elbow.
This time, the elbow wasn’t dislocated. It was shattered.
Lexi was taken to Columbus Regional Health, then moved to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.
The accident happened on Friday morning, and Lexi didn’t get in for surgery until 1:45 a.m. on Saturday. That procedure wasn’t a particularly simple one.
“The surgeon described to Lisa that the elbow was like somebody had crushed an eggshell,” Ron Wallman explained, “and that if it would have been somebody his age … that they probably would have done an elbow replacement — but since she’s so young and athletic and stuff, they tried to reconstruct it.”
Lexi Wallman had a strong freshman season with the Center Grove swim team, competing for the Trojans in the sectional meet. As a sophomore, however, she hit a bit of a wall — enough so that she took some private lessons, enlisting the help of coach Isaiah Tworek to help her regain her mojo.By season’s end, she had knocked enough time off to get close to where she’d been as a freshman, and she swam for Center Grove in the sectional preliminaries.
To have that momentum she’d built up heading into her junior season is a crushing blow, but it’s one that’s been softened by the support of her fellow Trojans. Teammate Rachel Kraus came to visit Lexi at her first hospital stop in Columbus, and various others have stopped by the Wallman home to hang out or offer encouragement.
“We try and keep her included,” Kraus said. “We have team bonding and stuff that we invite her to, and we just try to support her through the whole process.”
Arrangements were made at the high school to accommodate Lexi’s injury. She was in a wheelchair for the first week of school, and she’s still allowed out of her classes a few minutes early so that her elbow can avoid the perils of hallway traffic.
Of course, there was no way to create a contingency plan for every situation.
“The first day of school,” Ron Wallman recalled, “we think we’ve got all of our bases covered — and there’s a fire alarm. We didn’t think about, what do you do in a fire alarm and everybody trying to pile out?”
Fortunately, Lexi was able to get through it unscathed.
The rehabilitation process has been a slow one thus far — the focus for now is on regaining range of motion, and Lexi is able to extend her arm to about a 35-degree angle. Once she regains full extension and gets all of the pins and such removed from her elbow, she’ll begin the process of rebuilding strength.
Back in the pool
As of her most recent check-up, the prognosis for Lexi Wallman’s return to the pool was a positive one. She’s expected to be able to make a return to competitive swimming in the spring — plenty of time to get back on track before her senior season.Some, of course, are holding out hope that Lexi can buck the odds and make it back before the end of this season. But regardless of when Wallman can complete her comeback, nobody close to her has any doubts that she will.
“I think she will do everything she can to bounce back,” Center Grove head coach Jim Todd said. “It’s part of her personality, and she’ll work very hard to be able to hopefully contribute next year.”
“I don’t have any doubt,” added Amy Spencer, who coaches Wallman at Center Grove Aquatic Club. “She is very, very driven, very goal-oriented, and I have not seen her not work hard towards a goal, ever.
“My biggest fear, actually, is that she’s going to want to do too much too soon — and I’m going to have to be the bad guy and tell her she can’t do things.”
There doesn’t seem to be too much that Lexi Wallman can’t do when she puts her mind to it. There is only the question of what she wants to do.Riding a four-wheeler in the woods might not be too high on her to-do list for the foreseeable future. But while she regrets the end result of the accident, Lexi insists that she doesn’t regret the experience that she and her father shared — and she won’t let this setback extinguish her sense of adventure.
“I’ll keep on doing fun, adventurous things,” she said. “Just with this accident in mind.”