The bad bounce that saved my life

I remember running. Short and long distances in the cold. Agility drills in the empty hallways of a school. Weight-training. Vomiting, sometimes. And more running.

All for this day: March 20, 2011.

That day, I stepped out onto the field to take my position for tryouts, not knowing my life was about to change, or even that change was needed. I had been blessed, but I failed to see that, and therefore was not grateful for it. I had spent the recent years of middle and high school just going through the motions.

That day, March 20, 2011, I walked out onto the field.

I remember showcasing my pitching abilities, then getting into position at first base. We did routine infield drills, and then there was a bad throw from the short stop. I remember the crazy bounce of the ball right over my glove into my left temple. I remember continuing to play for a few minutes until the pain got too bad to handle. I remember wanting to go up to my room and sleep, and I remember my mom forcing me to go to the ER. I remember the parking lot and the triage table.

And I don’t remember anything else for a month.

Following brain surgery, I was left in a coma for a week, and after that, I was paralyzed, mute, unable to eat, and mentally incognizant. When I began to come around, I was in a state of disbelief, hurt, and defeat; and I began to settle for the notion that my life was over. Doctors had no idea what to expect for my recovery, but did convey that I had a tough road ahead. I was brought to the lowest point of my life. Thankfully, prayers and support came to me immediately from family and friends.

Although I did not know Jesus Christ at the time, I was experiencing the faith my loved ones had in God, so I decided to give Him a shot as my last chance for hope. Little did I know, this glimmer of hope would be all I needed to have life, and have it to the fullest. After praying for awakening from this apparent nightmare, something huge changed in my heart, and I experienced a resurrection into new life every day going forward.

After six months of intense physical, occupational, and speech rehabilitation, I was able to continue onto my junior year of high school and get back on the ball field the following spring. I was so fortunate to be able to continue doing what I loved; I was “back to normal,” as some may say.

However, I was far from the Dale Hogan that I used to be.

As I completed high school, I sensed God’s call for me to pursue a career in physical therapy. Having been blessed with a miraculous recovery, I felt led to pay my blessings forward. In the fall of 2013, I began a six year program in Physical Therapy at Duquesne University.

The coursework has been difficult, but the more I go through school, the more I realize the importance of being with God through prayer, reading, service, etc., even if it means taking schoolwork off of the pedestal that I sometimes put it on. I've also been blessed with a part time job in a physical therapy clinic, which God uses almost daily to reassure me that I'm on His path. I love what I do at the clinic, and am so excited to see how God uses me going forward in this career field.

God has given me a story of hope, and I know that He will use that to reach other hurting people through this path that He has set me on.

He has been with me every step of the way in my pursuit to fulfill this calling, and I know that He will always be there going forward. Ultimately, my experience over the past several years has been captured in this verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”

Even when a path includes a bad bounce, God is still abundantly faithful. So don’t be afraid to step up to the plate when He calls.

—Dale Hogan is a fourth-year physical therapy student at Duquesne University. He expects to complete his undergraduate degree in 2017 and his graduate degree in 2019.