Lewiston veteran earns USA Hockey’s Disabled Athlete of the Year award after doctors said she’d never play sports again

Posted June 28, 2013, at 5:23 a.m.
Last modified June 28, 2013, at 11:05 a.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — Army veteran Christy Gardner was recently named by USA Hockey as 2013 Disabled Athlete of the Year. Gardner, 31, plays for the U.S. Women’s Sled Hockey Team and also for the USA Warriors, a team made up of mostly male amputees.

Gardner, 31, of Lewiston, suffered a skull fracture from a direct hit she took to her forehead while serving as an Army MP in South Korea in 2006. The injury to her brain and spinal cord caused her to lose most of her speech and memory. For a while she had no feeling in her lower legs. She remains deaf in one ear.

Because she still suffers from grand mal seizures, she is accompanied everywhere by her affectionate golden retriever, Moxie, a service dog trained to detect the onset of a seizure. Moxie will tug Gardner to the floor and keep her down until the seizure has passed. He also is trained to bring her the phone and to alert next-door neighbors by ringing their doorbell.

Doctors told the former Edward Little field hockey and lacrosse player that she wouldn’t be able to play sports again. She’s had 19 surgeries so far. But through intense rehabilitation and Moxie’s service, she’s been able to take up several sports, ranging from surfing to wheelchair lacrosse.

A sled hockey coach said she was honored not so much for being the best player but for being the best overall contributor on and off the ice through her ability to overcome adversity.