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Dan Beaudrie holds a rosary in the intensive care unit days after surviving a devastating car crash in 2015. • Beaudrie wears his cervical/thoracic brace on a visit to the doctors overseeing his recovery, a team that included a rehabilitation specialist, a neurologist and a facial plastic surgeon.

DON’T TAP OUT My recovery was slow. I would do what they told me to do at therapy — simple exercises. Eventually, I was waddling into school in a big cervical/thoracic brace. I sometimes got discouraged, but then I said, “No, this is where I’m at. I’m going to do my best.” By midsummer, my brace was removed. I’m a terrible swimmer, but that fall, I was in the pool every day, and I built a lot of strength. Then, around November, I was cleared to begin lifting weights. And a few months later, just after the state tournament, I was cleared to begin wrestling again. There were some setbacks, though. When I first started lifting, I found out my hand had been broken for nine months and needed surgery. In track that spring, I went out too hard, too fast, and injured myself. And in the summer, I separated 20 ♦ C O L U M B I A ♦

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my left shoulder in a practice match. When I finally healed up, I continued training for the new season. I was getting out there, but everything always ached. I didn’t stop, because what else was there to do? Do you come this far and just tap out? By this point, it was no longer just that I wanted to say thank you to the Lord for my life. There were also so many people who had helped me so much. What could be a greater thank you to all of these people than to do something great? So I kept pushing on. Throughout the season, I would make it to the finals match and lose. Outside of the 3A division, I took second place everywhere. It was super frustrating. I also began to get a really awful pain in my left tricep. Eventually, my parents said, “We really have to check this out.” The doctor said, “You’ve damaged the nerve, and if you do it again, your left arm could become completely paralyzed.” I was just crushed. For the first time, I questioned, “Why, Lord? I’m trying to do everything right. I’m praying. I’m offering each competition, every part of my life for you. But now you’re telling me, when I’m doing so well, ‘It’s not happening’?” I struggled with that a lot. DREAMS COME TRUE With about three weeks before the regional qualifying tournament, my coach and I weren’t ready to tap out. In the last week, we came up with a plan that came to be known as “Operation: Keep the Dream Alive.” Throughout that lead-up

Photos courtesy of Dan Beaudrie

left the hospital less than a week after that. On one of my last days there, I asked a doctor, “When can I go wrestle again?” She laughed and shook her head, “I don’t know if you’re going to be doing much of anything ever again. You’re going to be happy to be walking.” I didn’t believe her. I told myself, “No, I’m going to go out and be a state champion. Whatever it takes. I can work.” Through the recovery process, my faith was most important. Until then, most of my desire was to be a champion athlete. But now it was: “God has preserved my life and given me all these kind people. Now I want to use the talents he’s given me as my offering back to him, to say thank you.”

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Columbia July/August 2019