This time a year ago Enterprise soccer player Maggie Bryan should have been fighting to get into the state tournament along with her teammates, but instead a pandemic cut their season short and a bizarre turn of events would leave her fighting for her life instead.
Bryan is a longtime starting goalkeeper for the Lady Cat soccer team and as a young member of the team in 2018 she injured her hip during the season. At the end of her freshman season Bryan was diagnosed with hip apophysitis – the inflammation of the growth plate in the hip – and was told she would simply outgrow it. After resting her hip throughout the summer, the pain returned during her sophomore season.
“I knew that my team was depending on me, and I had to find a way to push through the pain,” Bryan said. “My parents and I continued to believe that it was just an injury that would correct itself once I stopped growing.
“When the pain did not subside, we made the decision to return to the doctor. I was given a platelet-rich plasma injection to decrease the inflammation and to speed up the healing process. After getting this injection, the pain still did not diminish. Through a lot of prayer, physical therapy and perseverance I endured the pain for the rest of the season.”
After the season was over, Bryan and her parents sought out a hip specialist and was diagnosed with snapping hip syndrome and a torn hip labrum. Because of the length needed for recovery after surgery to repair the injury – an expected seven months – Bryan elected to put the surgery off and her doctor treated the injury with steroid injections in the hip and physical therapy. Bryan continued to play through her junior season despite debilitating pain.
“The pain became so unbearable that I would leave the field after every game with tears coming out of my eyes,” Bryan recalled. “Even through all the pain, I knew I could never let my teammates down. I continued to persevere and leave everything that I had on the soccer field.”
Then, COVID-19 struck and ended the 2020 soccer season prematurely. While ending the season early wasn’t what Bryan wanted, the added time would allow her to get the surgery needed to fix her hip and return in time for her senior campaign.
“I was not looking forward to the surgery, but I was very excited about getting to play the game I love without being in pain,” Bryan said. “I was up for the challenge if it meant I could give my team 100 percent of myself. Little did I know that the surgery meant to get me back on the field would almost take my life.”
After undergoing the surgery to repair her hip injuries in May 2020, Bryan was sent home after what was believed to be a successful operation. On the way home, though, her lips began to turn blue and she was discovered by her mother to be barely breathing.
Bryan was placed in the ICU after suffering respiratory failure as a result of the medication she was given before, during and after her surgery. After three days in the ICU, Bryan was moved to a regular hospital room and then eventually sent home again.
After returning home, though, things took another turn. Bryan’s oxygen level once again began to fall and she spiked a 103-degree fever. After returning to a hospital, Bryan was now diagnosed with pneumonia. It was eventually revealed that Bryan’s struggles were due to having been “accidentally overdosed on narcotics” throughout her surgery.
“This mistake caused me to become unconscious and put me into respiratory failure,” Bryan said. “I was so disappointed and full of many unanswered questions. I had a tough time processing that my life was nearly cut short by the very procedure that I needed to get me better and back on the soccer field doing what I loved.”
Despite being very frustrated and angry – as well as being behind in her recovery for her senior season – Bryan had to overcome her own feelings to get back to the soccer field.
“I knew that I had to overcome these thoughts before I could get back on my feet,” she said. “I felt defeated and looked to God for help. I started praying for peace, strength and guidance.
“I saw a quote that said, ‘If the sea could not stop Moses; if a wall could not stop Joshua; if a giant could not stop David; then in Christ, nothing can stop you.’ My whole perspective on my situation changed. My days began getting brighter when I started looking for the blessings I had been given instead of the misfortunes that I endured.”
Bryan saw everything from a different perspective and with her new outlook she hit the ground running and got her body back healthy enough to return to the soccer field once again. Bryan then began to share her story with others, and even turned it into an essay to apply for the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship. The Bryant-Jordan Scholarship is presented each year to students around the state – just eight in Class 7A – with $3,500 in scholarship money going to the student athlete and the possibility of earning even more.
“A few months ago God really laid it on my heart to share my testimony about what had occurred and what I had to overcome with my hip surgery,” Bryan said. “I first shared it on Facebook and then at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.
“I had no idea me sharing my testimony would be the reason that I was nominated for this scholarship. For the scholarship, we were asked to write a narrative about what we had overcome in order to achieve. I again shared my testimony, not to win this scholarship, but to reach the heart of just one person that came across it. I had no idea that my testimony would be shared to this scale but God did.”
Unfortunately, Bryan had even more adversity to overcome. Just mere weeks after submitting her essay, Bryan and her Lady Cat teammates took the field for the first time in almost a year to do battle with Auburn in the season opener. Just 22 minutes into the game, Bryan suffered a torn ACL that put an end to her senior season and her soccer career.
“I had worked so hard for eight months to fully recovery from my hip surgery to be able to play this year, which was my senior year,” Bryan said. “When I tore my ACL in the first 22 minutes of our very first game I was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. I honestly could not believe it.
“It was not the pain from my injury, it was the pain of not getting to do my part to help my team for the entire rest of the season. Every day I am faced with a decision to either dwell in the past or to come back and be my teammate’s biggest fan. As one of the team captains, I want to be there to encourage them and push them to play to the best of their ability. I also want to be an example to how fast playing the game you love can be taken away. I want them to know that every time they step out on the field it could very well be their last. I sure did not know it would be mine. I am trusting God has a bigger plan for my life and that this is a minor glimpse of the bigger picture. I trust that these adversities are on His time and not my own.”
A week after suffering her ACL injury, Bryan received some much-needed good news.
“The Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Foundation told the area winners that they would be notified by mail on Feb. 17. When I checked the mail that day I had not received anything,” Bryan remembered. “I accepted that I did not get the scholarship but was proud to have made it that far.
“Three days later I checked our mailbox for a package and there it was, a big yellow envelope with ‘Bryant-Jordan Foundation’ stamped largely on the front. I was in shock and could not believe that I was chosen to represent our region. I was so thankful to finally have received good news after just facing a season ending injury a week prior.”
Bryan – who will be attending Troy University next year – said that she plans major in Exercise Science for her undergraduate degree and then pursue a Doctorate of Physical Therapy.
After going through so much in the past number of years, Bryan has some pointed advice for other student-athletes that face similar adversities on the field and off it.
“My advice to younger athletes facing adversity would be to establish a relationship with God,” she flatly said. “Without that relationship, I would have never made it through my first major injury and now my second.
“When I hit rock bottom physically, mentally and emotionally, God would reveal a glimpse of hope for me to cling on to. He has opened doors for me far greater than anything I could have ever imagined despite all the obstacles I have had to overcome. I would also like to them to know that no matter how down they may feel, it will get better. It will take time to process the emotions but there will be a brighter tomorrow. Just have faith and keep going. Continue to press on and keep a positive mentality each day. Set daily goals and accomplish each of them. The recovery might be long and hard, but it will be so worth it in the end. The questions all have answers but they will be revealed with certainty and purpose on God’s timing, not our own.”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association and the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Foundation will honor all recipients of the scholarship and name the overall Bryant-Jordan Award winner – who will receive additional scholarship money – at the April 12 Bryant-Jordan Regional Scholar-Athlete and Student Achievement Awards Banquet in Birmingham.