Photo by Katherine Odell
With her arms flexed, freshman Olivia Johnson prepared to catch a cheerleader who was doing a flyover. At 6:45 a.m., in the East gym,it took significant effort to ignore her yawns and focus on the stunts and the girl about to fall into her arms. Just seconds after the cheerleader came flying down, the weight of the flyer landing in Johnson’s arm brought her and another base together, But this time rather than the swift catch, settle, let go, their heads collided. Johnson left at 7:15 a.m. with a surgery needed later that day.
Clutching her right eye, Johnson couldn’t feel her face. Shock overcame her when she tried to process what happened. She could barely move. As cheerleaders gathered around her immediately after it happend, pain shot through the right side of her face.
“I went to the nurse and was nauseated from the pain of the injury, so my mom came to get me not knowing what happened,” Johnson said.
The nurse and her mother lifted her into a wheelchair and wheeled her out of school. After attempting to go home and rest for an hour, she was throwing up all over her house and couldn’t look up or down due to the pain in her eye. When her family arrived at Children’s Mercy at 10 a.m., they learned Johnson had a broken orbital bone after looking at the CT scan.
During the cheer stunt, the bone pinched the muscle that controls the movement of her eye, which made it nearly impossible to look up or down. They needed to perform an orbital floor fracture repair, a surgery in which the doctors would move the pinched muscle back into place and insert a plate to keep the muscle from moving.
“I didn’t really have a good feeling for how serious or not serious things were,” her mother, Angie Johnson, said. “Ultimately I just thought she had a bad headache, but it was a lot worse than I anticipated.”
Around 6 p.m, just 12 hours after the injury occurred, surgeons prepared Johnson for her operation. She threw up 14 times before she reached the operating room. Her family gathered around her before she went into surgery. Her grandpa, who is a pastor, said a quick prayer over the phone. Johnson was then taken into the operating room and her family sat and waited.
“We weren’t really expecting them to say that I was going to have surgery, so when they came in and told us, I was pretty freaked out because the thought of someone working on my eye was scary,” Johnson said.
The nurse removed Johnson’s IV and she was sent home. By 7:30 she was at home resting.
Johnson was relieved to see that all she was left with is a swollen and bruised face. She was told she needed to ice her eye, put warm moist packs on and apply antibiotic ointment nightly to speed the recovery process.
Her surgery happened on a Wednesday night and after a lot of rest she was back to school by Monday. Since this was her first year being a cheerleader, she wanted to see what potential she had. She refused to let this injury set her back. On Friday, she attended the competition practice. She was taken out of the competition routine due to her injury but added back in just to do dances and choreography.
“I feel like when the time comes to stunt again I might be a little scared, but I’m ready to go back slowly,”Johnson said.