The 2002 Gauntlet Extra Effort Award went to a young woman who is an example of mental strength, determination and the will to continue against all odds.
As a female athlete Debra Hidson is someone that everybody should look up to. This athlete went through more than most of us ever will and openly shared her story with the audience at this year's Night of the Dino.
"I had a great time and I was so surprised to win the [extra effort] award. It was an awesome feeling," said the outstanding athlete. She also received Canadian Interuniversity Sport's Tracy Macleod Award for perseverance.
Hidson, a post player, joined the Dinos women's basketball team in 1998.
"My dream came true because I always wanted to play basketball in university," she said.
During her first year she was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a rare neurological disorder. She tried everything from physiotherapy to medication to two spinal cord surgeries in order to defeat her disease. But afterwards, Hidson was placed on life support for four days and the disorder spread to both arms and legs. Doctors had conference calls discussing her case but they couldn't find any other way to help her. Finally, she was told that she would never walk again.
Not willing to give up, Hidson turned to naturopathic medicine where she was once again told that nothing could be done for her. While many may have given up, Hidson refused.
"I never had a more positive attitude in my life," she said of her mental battle with her disease. "We don't know what will come our way in life but you have a choice of how to react to it."
Hidson turned to herself, knowing that a positive attitude would have a positive influence on her body. Slowly, she began to progress. From a tiny movement of her toes, to a wheelchair and finally to crutches, after one year she was able to walk again.
"I believe in the connection between mind and body," she said of how she made it through the ups and downs. "A healthy mind helps you to a healthy body."
A car accident in August 2001 put her back to square one, but her determination made it possible to start again. She learned how to walk once more, regained strength and moved closer to her dream-competitive basketball. Throughout all this, Deb didn't miss more than a few days of school and she will graduate this year after four years in general studies.
Doctors called her ability to walk a miracle. And the fact that she returned to the court was more than anyone could possibly understand. After three years without training, she joined the Dinos at the U of C in November 2001,practised, put on a Dinos jersey and played against the University of British Columbia the following week.
"After the first game I didn't stop smiling for a week or so," she mused. "My dream was reality again, but right now I am not even close to being pain free and basketball was hard on me."
With great support from her family, friends, the team and Head Coach/mentor Shawnee Harle, she will hopefully be out on the court again next season to show that the impossible is possible.