Ever since she can remember, Emily Wurl has been active in sports. "I enjoy getting out there on the field where nothing else matters," she grins. "I also like the relationships you make. It's a lot of fun."
"I love them all," she declares, but if she had to pick a favorite sport, it would be soccer. The memories go back as far as age 7, playing goalie in Othello on Easter weekend. "I didn't think you had rivals when you were seven, but apparently we did." The team capped off their victory with a post-game egg hunt.
It's been eight years since that Easter game. Now, Emily plays forward. In March, she rolled her ankle on a Spokane soccer field, taking an opponent down with her. Emily was back in the game within minutes. "My adrenaline kept me going," she admits.
Back home in Quincy, Emily felt a bit sore and stiff - nothing she hadn't experienced before. But when the next 48 hours brought an increase in swelling and bruising, it was clear she wasn't going to be able to shake this one off.
School was on holiday, so Emily rode to Ellensburg with her mother Michele, Community Relations Director at Kittitas Valley Healthcare.
"I had a small window of time to get her there," recalls Michele. Emily was admitted to KVH Hospital's Emergency Department, where they determined her ankle wasn't broken, but she needed to see specialist.
A call was placed to KVH Orthopedics. They were told to head straight over to the clinic, where Emily was examined by physician assistant Reese Hosey. Soon, they were joined by Dr. Thomas Mirich.
"It was such a team approach," says Michele. "Depending upon what Emily needed, they'd bring that person into the exam room. One of the providers was an athlete who'd had the same injury, so she talked with Emily about it."
The providers agreed, Emily would need an MRI.
"What's the likelihood we can do it today?" asked Michele, hoping to avoid multiple round trips from Quincy. Clinic staff assured her that, barring any emergencies, they could perform the scan that afternoon.
The smooth transition from ER to clinic to imaging wasn't lost on Michele. "There were a lot of steps that they had to go through, including insurance authorization, but they didn't make it my problem," she says. "They just did it."
Just hours after Emily's exam, she had the MRI. "I'd had so many sprains in my life, they were concerned that my ligaments were torn," she says. Two days later, she received good news: no surgery was needed.
The not-so-good news? She'd have to take three months off to let things heal. That was tough for Emily to hear. A freshman at Quincy High School, it was her first year of track. "I was supposed to letter," she says, "and go to districts and possibly regionals."
Within days, the Wurls were back at KVH Orthopedics for a follow-up appointment. Once again, Emily was full of questions - and staff were happy to answer.
"The way they approached Emily's care was to bring it back to her, every time," says Michele, who continued to be impressed with her daughter's treatment. "It was about her, and her goals, and the best way to get her there.
"They talked to us both, and when we didn't know how to do something, they showed us exactly how to do it so that she wouldn't be risking re-injury."
In addition to treating athletic injuries, several of the orthopedic providers are athletes themselves, sharing a natural empathy for Emily's situation.
"They helped her understand from an athlete's point of view what her limitations were," says Michele, "and they helped me understand as a parent what I needed to be watching for, where to set limits and where to let Emily make her own decisions."
While those limits meant some initial disappointments for Emily, she turned her focus to other priorities. "Academics is really important to me," she says. "Family and friends are, too." That didn't stop her from being thrilled when she was cleared for a progressive return to sports activities at her six-week check-up. "Now I know how hard it is to have to watch from the sideline. You never really understand until you've been injured."
She offers hard-earned perspective to others dealing with injuries. "You're still a part of the team," she says. "You still have a big impact on the people around you."
"You can still be a leader, off the field. You can still inspire your teams, and the relationships you built with your teammates are still there. Even if you can't play, you should stay with your team and continue to build those relationships."
These days, Emily's back on her feet, with the future stretched out before her, like - well, like an enormous soccer field. After a few more seasons playing forward with Quincy's Lady Jacks, "I definitely want to play Division 1 soccer," says Emily. "That's my main goal. I want to play in the WNSL, but I'm just going to see where things take me.
"Sports is always going to be a part of my life."