As a fierce competitor, Morgan Fleming does not shy away from adversity.
Two years ago, however, the two-sport star at Parkview High faced a form of adversity that was previously foreign to her: a serious injury.
Handling the injury the same way she does opponents on the soccer field or in the pool, Morgan didn't let it beat her. Instead, she beat it and came back stronger.
While playing soccer in April 2012, Morgan attempted to shield the ball out of bounds. While she was doing so, an opposing player swung at her right leg and collapsed her knee.
"I heard a loud pop and I fell to the ground," Morgan said. "I didn't know how bad it was, but I was in a tremendous amount of pain and couldn't put any pressure on my leg."
Morgan's parents, Jim and Dawn, took her to the Emergency Department at Scottish Rite hospital. The family had a good experience with the professionals at Scottish Rite when their oldest daughter was a newborn and felt it was the best place for Morgan.
"There was no other place we even considered," Dawn said.
An MRI revealed that Morgan had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee, one of the most common sports-related injuries but one that requires surgery and extensive physical therapy.
"I was nervous about an hour before surgery," Morgan said, "but other than that I wasn't nervous. I had no reason to be. I knew that I had a surgeon who was experienced in fixing ACLs and an amazing physical therapist."
Cliff Willimon, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Children's, performed Morgan's surgery May 17. It involved replacing the injured ligament with a graft from her hamstring.
Soon after the successful surgery, Morgan began physical therapy with Liz Chesarek, P.T., D.P.T., at Children's at Snellville. Liz had Morgan perform a variety of exercises, from running on the treadmill to squats, to help build back the strength in her leg.
"Physical therapy was extremely hard and painful for the first month or so," Morgan said. "Once I gained strength back in my leg, it was a cinch."
After spending nearly a decade competing non-stop, Morgan was forced to put her soccer cleats and swim cap on the shelf for about five months. This made for a frustrated and anxious athletic teen.
"It was very difficult for Morgan," Dawn said. "She was such a trooper though, doing exactly what she needed to do to get back."
'A Fairytale Ending'
When she did return to competition, Morgan did her best to make up for lost time.
She hit the pool as soon as Dr. Willimon and Liz gave her the go-ahead, returning in time to finish in the top five at the state swimming meet.
"I was definitely ready and excited," Morgan said. "I was very eager to get back to a soccer routine. I love competing."
She was also able to return for the following spring soccer season as a starter, helping the Parkview Lady Panthers win the Class AAAAAA championship in 2013.
"It really was a fairytale ending," Dawn said.