After a year of hospitalization and recovery following a car crash last May, senior and outside hitter Fiona Lazzaretti was able to return to the volleyball court with her teammates and coach for Lafayette’s Senior Night. At the event, she walked the court with her mother, Deborah, and father, Victor, on each arm.
“It was nice to get on the court,” Fiona said. “I was kind of emotional, getting back on the court in some way after being off of it for so long.”
Lafayette coach Zach Young was also happy to see her attend the event.
“The crowd gave her a big applause with many knowing her story and knowing how special it was to have her in uniform that night,” he said. “There were lots of tears from teammates, coaches, parents and friends in the stands.”
After a major vehicle accident put Fiona in the hospital last spring, there were some doubts that would be able to take part in the big night.
It began May 5, 2018, with Fiona celebrating her Show Me Volleyball Academy club team’s 17U bid for the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship. While Fiona’s parents drove home from the celebration, she and her siblings, Eliza and Victor, opted to drive back together. About 20 minutes later, Deborah received a phone call from her son that they had been in a head-on collision on Hwy. 109 less than 1 mile away from their home. While her siblings escaped the car with broken bones and injuries, Fiona was trapped inside.
“I began running down my drive and headed south on 109,” Deborah said. “I made so many deals with God all the way down that road. I called 911 and told them there was a terrible accident.”
First-responders had to cut the vehicle’s door off and used chains to pull the front end out. Fiona suffered immense blood loss and was airlifted to Mercy Hospital.
“There is nothing like the image of [medics] loading your child into the back of a helicopter,” Deborah said.
Fiona’s right femur, right humerus, tibia and fibula were broken. She also suffered a left Lisfranc fracture and nerve impairment. Her spleen was also leaking.
Fiona went to ICU that night and into surgery the next day. She was eventually transferred to the Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in Maryland Heights for additional treatment. She was in a wheelchair until the end of June.
“We had a ramp built in the house and she went to therapy three times a week for two hours,” Deborah said. “You cannot imagine how hard she worked.”
Recovery has been an uphill journey.
“I can walk. It’s getting better,” Fiona said. “It probably hit me in the middle of the summer that I wouldn’t be playing. Nerve damage takes a long time to heal. The doctors told me I wouldn’t heal in time for the season. It was a bad day.”
Fiona’s hospitalization didn’t stop her teammates and classmates from visiting.
“We have pictures of the room full of students laying on the floor and beds spending time with Fiona,” Deborah said.
When her club team went to the national tournament, Fiona was in a knee scooter. She has also attended every one of Lafayette’s games except one.
“I know this is not how she thought her senior year would be, but she has the heart of a lion and continues to fight,” Deborah said. “All the players were hugging her and crying at Senior Night when she was out on the court. We are so proud of her and her determination.”
Fiona also played basketball at Lafayette but won’t return to play this winter.
“I’m out. I’ll go and watch,” she said.