Scraping the scarred surface of life

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Sophomore Aubrie Purtell. (M. Krebs/Voice)
Aubrie Purtell with her father (Courtesy of Aubrie Purtell).

Jan. 20, 2011. Aubrie Purtell looks down at her bare feet against the cream carpet in her room.

First, she looks at her left foot, and then she looks at her right foot. She walks to her dresser and pulls out a pair of thick black tights.

If she wants to wear flats to her 16th birthday celebration, then she has to wear something over the scarred, bruised, and deformed surface of her right foot.

211 days earlier. Purtell, in her purple Supergirl leotard, was practicing her standing back tuck on the beam at gymnastics practice.

She flipped.

She landed.

She broke.

She broke almost every bone in her right foot and tore all of the ligaments.

She broke her dream of competing at a higher level this year.

Purtell did not have surgery until five days after the disaster. She sat in her house, immobile and screaming, for five days.

Jan. 20, 2011. At her birthday celebration Purtell, in her black tights, is surrounded by friends, but she can’t help noticing that the person she wants to be there the most is absent.

Her father.

211 days earlier. Joe Purtell came home from the hospital.

He had been fighting brain cancer for a year. He only had a few weeks left of life that he didn’t want to spend in the hospital.

Joe Purtell floated in and out of consciousness for three weeks.

Joe Purtell did not know who he was for three weeks.

Joe Purtell laid on a bed with his eyes open, not moving, only breathing for three weeks.

21 days after coming home from the hospital. Joe Purtell took his last breath. “Amazing Grace” was playing on the radio.

Jan. 20, 2011. Aubrie Purtell takes off the tight on her right foot, revealing the scarred surface of her life.

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