Hitting a recovery home run
A crack of Abby Chapman’s bat sent the softball soaring through the outfield Thursday.
It was the Columbian High School junior and starting pitcher’s first over-the-fence home run and came less than a year after she was critically injured in an accident in Clinton Township.
It was a blessing Abby lived, said Gary Amlin, one of three firefighters-paramedics on duty for Tiffin Fire Rescue Division the night of the accident.
“By the grace of God, she definitely pulled through,” he said.
Abby, who turned 17 years old Wednesday, got into an accident on TR 73 while returning home from the house of her boyfriend, Trent Wise, in June.
She first was taken by Tiffin Fire Rescue Division to Mercy Health — Tiffin Hospital and then was flown by Life Flight to Mercy Health — St. Vincent Medical Center, where she spent time in the intensive care unit.
Abby’s father, Rick Chapman, recalled medical crews not thinking Abby would pull through the night. He said he told the Life Flight crew, “Save my baby.”
Amlin and fellow firefighters-paramedics Shawn Riley and Sean Tyler made up the Tiffin Fire Rescue Division crew that responded to the accident and were the first rescuers to arrive at the scene.
Amlin — whose daughter is eight days younger than Abby — said things just clicked that night, and without really even talking about it, all three were doing their task. It’s a good feeling that the three of them worked together to make a difference, he said.
“Each one of us had our own job to do,” he said.
Abby had a concussion, ruptured bladder, fractured skull, broken nose, broken clavicles, two broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver, and her pelvis was broken in three places.
Abby’s mother, Amy Chapman, said the family believes Abby had an angel looking out for her.
Rick said it was a group effort. First-responders, doctors at Mercy Health – Tiffin Hospital and the staff at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center all contributed to save her life, he said.
Rick estimated Abby squeezed his hand for the first time about 13 hours after the accident. He said he had been talking to her and told her he loved her.
The squeeze was the first real movement she had, Amy said.
The family reflected on the friends, family and teammates who arrived at the hospital, the support of the Tiffin community, Tiffin City Schools and Abby’s coaches, and softball teams from other states that reached out.
The outpouring and love were amazing, Rick said.
Abby was transferred to University of Toledo’s rehabilitation center nine days after the accident and underwent occupational, speech and physical therapy.
She completed her work there in two weeks, a week sooner than projected, and got to attend a tournament in Fostoria in which her Blackhawks travel fast-pitch team was playing.
Abby said her mom pushed a wheelchair, and she then walked to the field.
“I surprised the entire team,” she said.
Abby underwent physical therapy at Integrated Orthopaedic & Sports Rehabilitation in Tiffin.
She started lifting weights at Columbian near the start of school in the fall and knew she’d be playing softball for the school. She said she still is not completely back to the strength she previously had.
“You’re pretty close, though,” Amy said.
Abby had started playing softball when she was 10 years old and started playing travel ball when she was 12. She said she loves the memories and friendships she has made and having the bond with her dad, and likes the competitiveness of the game.
Rick, who coaches the Blackhawks team, said he expected Abby to be back on the diamond, but he didn’t think she’d back as fast as she was. He said he didn’t know if she’d ever pitch again.
“Her pitching coach did wonders with her,” he said.
Amy said it’s now hard watching Abby sometimes, knowing everything that happened and to know she’s overcome the hurdle. Abby has worked hard to get back, she said.
“It’s only up from here,” Rick said.
They know they still have work to do, Rick said.
“We’ll get there,” he said.
From the accident, Rick said he has learned, “Don’t take any day for granted.” He said they took Abby on a cruise “just because we could.”
“You don’t know what tomorrow brings,” he recalled thinking.