A ‘little light that shines’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Bethel College women’s head basketball coach Larry Eddings believes that Natalie Hyde, a 2001 graduate of Pelham High School and a red-shirt freshman for the Lady Wildcats , is the team’s &uot;little light that shines.&uot;


made the statement as he referred to Natalie’s determination and perseverance to overcome a June 2001 accident which broke both of her legs as she was on her way to take her ACT test.

Natalie signed a scholarship

to play for Bethel, located in McKenzie, Tenn., in March of 2001.

On Saturday, June 9 of that year, she left home early enough to take her time getting to the test center. But on the way, she encountered some wet pavement, and While negotiating a curve at approximately 35 mph, she lost control of her vehicle.

And as she attempted to regain control, the vehicle slammed into a tree.

Injuries to Natalie’s legs were severe. She was transported to by ambulance to UAB in Birmingham where he underwent immediate surgery. After therapy on Sunday, she underwent additional surgery on Monday.

And Rods were put in both her legs where they remained until this year.

Doctors were not optimistic about Natalie’s return to the basketball court as a participant. They told her that walking might become a chore.

Following the accident, Natalie’s father, D.C., called Eddings and told him the news. Eddings was on his way to Birmingham the following day and heard her agony as the therapy session was in progress.

However, Eddings told D.C. that his daughter’s scholarship was in tact, that she would have a year and a half to recoup, and they would go from there. While that was somewhat of a relief, according to D.C., he said he was still concerned with his daughter’s future.

Eight days after the accident, Natalie went home in a wheelchair and announced that she would return to the game she loves so much. With therapy for the next six weeks, she began to move around on crutches and began intense therapy to regain here mobility. She arrived at Bethel in August of 2001 on crutches.

It was very difficult to leave her at Bethel, noted D.C., who had driven her from home. The fact that Natalie had never been so far from home before was one concern, but that she was on crutches was his major concern.

However, D.C. had spoken with Eddings and was assured that Natalie would be looked after, and Eddings would call if it became necessary.

Natalie settled into a routine, attending classes and therapy sessions at Methodist Hospital. Once the 2001-2002 season began, she attended home games, sitting behind her teammates or at the scorer’s table. Her therapy continued in April of 2002, and she then began the agonizing road to getting into shape and playing basketball again.

Natalie said that she loves basketball, but did not realize just how much until she was sidelined.

If anything, her determination deepened, and by the time she returned to Bethel this past August, she was ready to see what she could do.

Throughout the summer, she had been lifting weights at her home and running. Her high school coach, Kim Kiel,

opened the Pelham High School gymnasium for her to practice her shooting skills.

Eddings noted that Natalie’s work ethic is amazing. All of the players have incurred minor sprains and have felt pain in their pursuit of their love for the game. Several have had ACL injuries and gone through intense therapy on their own. Still, knowing what Natalie has been through and seeing her practice has made the team more focused on their own practice sessions.

Eddings and assistant coach Chris Perkins both said

that Natalie never quits, never complains (even when they know she must feel

pain) and is the last to complete practice. And this attitude has spread to the other players, who no longer complain of minor aches and pains of their own.

Although she may see limited action this season, Natalie is playing on the junior varsity squad and continues to improve each day.

Her speed is not as good as it once was, but she said she believes she will continue to improve and eventually get most of the skills back that brought her to Eddings’ attention.

Natalie’s mom, Cathy, and dad were with her over the homecoming weekend and are proud of their daughter’s return to the game she loves. Both speak very highly of Bethel and Eddings. And

D.C. said coach Eddings &uot;is a man of his word. He kept every promise he made to me.&uot;

Natalie has an older half sister and half brother.

She was the first female athlete from PHS to sign a basketball scholarship. She is majoring in physical education

and doing well academically, making the dean’s list, and plans to return this area to teach and coach.

Of the accident and her recuperation, Natalie said, &uot;It taught me a lot. Everyone is lucky to be alive.&uot; However, she still does not like to drive on wet streets or in the rain.

For the Bethel Lady Wildcats, Natalie’s accident has perhaps taught them that miracles do happen when you want something badly enough. It has also taught them to be more grateful for good health as they respond to her work ethic.

Natalie Hyde has the love of her family and her extended family, as well. She is indeed the &uot;little light that shines.&uot;