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.
Christy Gardner practices shooting a hockey puck in her driveway as her service dog, Moxie, looks on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner practices shooting a hockey puck in her driveway as her service dog, Moxie, looks on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Christy Gardner plays tug with her service dog, Moxie, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year. She suffered catastrophic injuries to her brain and spinal cord in Korea.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner plays tug with her service dog, Moxie, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year. She suffered catastrophic injuries to her brain and spinal cord in Korea.
Christy Gardner practices shooting a hockey puck in her driveway as her service dog, Moxie, looks on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner plays sled hockey for the US Women's national Team and the mostly male USA Warriors.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner practices shooting a hockey puck in her driveway as her service dog, Moxie, looks on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner plays sled hockey for the US Women's national Team and the mostly male USA Warriors.
Christy Gardner adjusts her leg braces, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner still occasionally needs to use one of her two wheelchairs when her legs tire.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner adjusts her leg braces, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner still occasionally needs to use one of her two wheelchairs when her legs tire.
Christy Gardner lost parts of two fingers on her left hand, making it difficult to grip a hockey stick, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner lost parts of two fingers on her left hand, making it difficult to grip a hockey stick, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Christy Gardner of Lewiston, Maine, far right, with her squad on a mission in Korea before her injury.
Contributed photo
Christy Gardner of Lewiston, Maine, far right, with her squad on a mission in Korea before her injury.
Christy Gardner works out with weights in her basement, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner was a stand-out athlete at Edward Little High School and CW Post College before entering the Army.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner works out with weights in her basement, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner was a stand-out athlete at Edward Little High School and CW Post College before entering the Army.
Christy Gardner's workout regiment is posted on a basement wall at her home, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Jumping jacks no longer are impossible for her but jump squats are still difficult.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner's workout regiment is posted on a basement wall at her home, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Jumping jacks no longer are impossible for her but jump squats are still difficult.
Christy Gardner does pulls-ups in a bedroom doorway, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner does pulls-ups in a bedroom doorway, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Christy Gardner's sled, hockey sticks and gloves, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year. Metal teeth at the ends of each sticks are used to propel the player across the ice.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner's sled, hockey sticks and gloves, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year. Metal teeth at the ends of each sticks are used to propel the player across the ice.
Christy Gardner competes for the USA Warriors in a sled hockey game. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner competes for the USA Warriors in a sled hockey game. Gardner is an Army veteran who was just named USA Hockey's Disabled Athlete of the Year.
Christy Gardner plays with her service dog, Moxie, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner plays with her service dog, Moxie, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine.
Christy Gardner's service dog, Moxie, chews up a hockey puck on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Moxie is trained to bring his master the phone and to ring the neighbor's doorbell if Gardner suffers a seizure.
Robert F. Bukaty
Christy Gardner's service dog, Moxie, chews up a hockey puck on Thursday, June 13, 2013, in Lewiston, Maine. Moxie is trained to bring his master the phone and to ring the neighbor's doorbell if Gardner suffers a seizure.

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.

 

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