Back in mid-September it was unknown if Jim Thorpe athlete Khaaliq Lynch would ever walk again. The 17-year old football, basketball, and track star was involved in a car accident on September 16, 2012 that resulted in a severe neck injury.
The operator of the car Lynch was a passenger in lost control, slid across the road and struck a wooden fence. On impact, one of the fence posts penetrated the rear window of the vehicle, striking the passenger-side headrest. It penetrated the headrest and the fence post struck Lynch in the head.
Lynch was then flown by helicopter to the Lehigh Valley trauma unit in Salisbury Township where he was treated for a rare medical condition called an internal decapitation. An internal decapitation is when the skull separates from the spinal column during a severe head injury. The result in most cases is fatal.
Fast forward to the present.
After hearing the story of Lynch's accident one would imagine that he would at least be in a wheelchair. However, if you take a trip to Olympian Stadium that's not what you will see.
Instead, you will see a big, strong, and fast athlete gliding down the Jim Thorpe track with a smoothness and ease that is quite rare.
That athlete is Khaaliq Lynch.
Upon waking up in the intensive care unit the last thing on Lynch's mind was sports, which of course can be understood. It wasn't until he became more alert and he could converse with his friends and family that sports re-entered his mind. Lynch gives a lot of credit to his friends and family for telling him from the moment he woke up that he could once again become the athlete he was before the accident.
"It took me a couple months before I even thought about playing sports again," said Lynch. "Honestly, I was just scared when I woke up and I was worried about not being able to walk again, but my family and friends were great. They were there everyday telling me I could get back and it really motivated me."
Coming back from Lynch's type of injury is pretty much unheard of. The road to recovery was not easy, but once Lynch learned to walk again he gained the confidence to keep building towards a comeback.
"It wasn't easy I can tell you that. I had to learn how to walk again and that was most definitely the hardest part," said Lynch. "I owe a lot to the doctors too. They pushed me everyday to walk a little more and that motivated me as well. I just tried to take it day by day, even if I could only walk for a minute. It didn't matter, as long as I improved everyday."
Eventually, Lynch's small steps became bigger and bigger and in December he started running and working out with his older brothers. He gained back the 35 pounds he lost from his stay in the hospital and then some by adding more muscle from his weight lifting regiment. In February, he was cleared by doctors to participate in sports, with the exception of football, which Lynch will never be able to play again.
"I am just extremely grateful to be able to compete in sports again," said Lynch. "I just remember how happy I was to be be back at school with everybody. With everything that happened with my accident I know things could be a lot worse. I know I could be in a wheelchair or even dead. I'm just happy to be here and I'll never forget everybody that helped to get me where I am today."
Right now Lynch is enjoying a solid junior campaign for the Olympians track team and had a nice showing at the always competitive Tamaqua Invitational. He qualified for the 100 meter final and finished third in the 200 meter final. Jim Thorpe track coach Frank Miller, who was also Lynch's assistant football coach is thrilled to see him back in the halls and back participating in athletics.
"It's great to have him back. The fact the he recovered from an injury like that is nothing short of amazing," said Miller. "He's always been a kid that has had such a great outlook on things and I think that helped him recover so successfully. He always has a smile on his face and to have him in our program competing again simply makes us a better team. It just goes to show anyone out there that one moment or one bad thing does not define a person's legacy. He took a tough situation and turned it into a positive and that's inspiring to a community."
Lynch will be a part of the Olympians basketball squad in 2013 and also plans on playing AAU basketball this summer.