Cheering on

Senior cheerleader recovers from car crash

This+past+semester%2C+senior+Avery+Hayward+was+in+a+four-car+collision.+After+months+of+recovery%2C+Avery+is+back+in+the+classroom.

Sarah Hibberd

This past semester, senior Avery Hayward was in a four-car collision. After months of recovery, Avery is back in the classroom.

When senior Avery Hayward began her routine drive to work, she had no idea a few minutes behind the wheel would turn into 192 hours in the intensive care unit.

This past semester at the three-way intersection of Stinson and E. Parker Road, Avery made a left-hand turn resulting in a four-car collision with three hits to the driver’s side of her car. After months of recovery in and out of hospitals, Avery found herself back in the classroom.

“Funny enough, I don’t remember anything about the entire day,” Avery said. “I guess it’s my brain’s defense mechanism shielding the crash from me.”

The crash transpired on Aug. 31 around 5:30 p.m. while Avery was on her way from UIL cheer practice at the high school to her job at the Wylie Elite cheer gym. 

“One of the [rumors] was that I got hit by a semi-truck,” Avery said. “There was a rumor that I was dead, and clearly, I’m not. None of those were true.”

After the crash, emergency medical services transported Avery to the emergency room. Avery’s mother, Kelly Hayward, tracked Avery to make sure she got to work on time. By the third time checking and noticing Avery remained at the intersection, she said she knew it “wasn’t going to be good.”

“People say it, and it’s just true, I had a gut feeling that something was really, really wrong,” Kelly said. “I said to my husband, ‘we need to go.’”

Avery’s parents drove to the site of the crash, where they passed the Lucas Fire Department and realized it was void of all emergency vehicles. Kelly remembers the 25-minute drive to the emergency room but little about arriving at the site. 

“When we got there, honestly, she looked really good,” Kelly said. “She just looked like she was laying there resting, but at the same time, we knew that she had head trauma.”

Avery received an ICU bed at 1:00 a.m. after a five-hour wait, but her family was unable to stay with her because of COVID-19 regulations. For the next eight days, Avery remained in an unconscious state.

“You’re in such a state of shock,” Kelly said. “It was the first time in my life I had to experience pure numbness. It was like walking through a foggy haze each day we were at the hospital from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.”

Avery was battling with level one trauma. While she was healing from two frontal lobe hemorrhages, prior aspiration caused Avery to develop pneumonia in one lung. 

 “Other than that, she had no broken bones, no organ injuries at all,” Kelly said. “We knew that within the first 24 hours. What we were dealing with was a brain injury.”

On day eight, Avery opened her eyes for the first time since the crash. Soon after, she transferred to UT Southwestern Medical Center in September for inpatient care. Upon arriving, 

Avery was unable to walk, but she worked to regain her physical and mental state through therapy.

“Every day was a new something she did,” Kelly said. “Every time she would do something new, we would videotape it and send it to family. She went from being a tumbling cheerleader to having to use a harness to hold her up.”

Because of her injuries, Avery is unable to tumble or stunt. The end of basketball season will conclude Avery’s 11 years of cheer experience. Avery says not returning to cheer is something she “slowly had to come to terms with.” 

“I just wanted to go back to my regular life,” Avery said. “I wanted to go back to school and see all my friends. For a long time, I had the idea that I would be able to return to cheer even though it was a fantasy in my mind.”

UT Southwestern discharged Avery Oct. 6, where she began outpatient care with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center and homebound teaching with AP literature teacher Cynthia Anderson. 

“You can’t put Avery in a box and say she’s one thing or another,” Anderson said. “She is so many different things. She is completely unique in the way she looks at things. She does what she wants to do; she gets passionate about things and puts her full force into it.”

Anderson viewed a homebound teaching request “thinking it could be Avery,” so she volunteered and taught AP literature and forensic science. While teaching Avery one-on-one, the personal atmosphere associated with writing formed a quick bond between the two. 

“When [Avery] was gone, she was missed because it was such a small class,” Anderson said. “Having her back has changed the dynamic of the whole class again. I think she’s opening a lot of eyes.”

“When [Avery] was gone, she was missed because it was such a small class. Having her back has changed the dynamic of the whole class again. I think she’s opening a lot of eyes.” ”

— Anderson

Avery and her mother received an abundance of calls, texts and get well wishes ranging from within the community to out-of-state cheer friends. 

“I couldn’t say enough about the community we have built, even though we don’t realize it,” Kelly said. “Coming out of it, I realized that it takes a village, and we’ve obviously built a big village because they all came forward to help out. If we needed anybody, I wouldn’t have to think twice.”

The day Avery left the ICU, Prosper cheerleader Makayla Noble entered the same hospital after a tumbling accident that left her paralyzed.

“I learned that there’s always a way it could be worse,” Avery said. “A girl who went to the same ICU I did had been doing a backflip and landed on her neck, she’s paraplegic.”

Avery says she feels “all is well” and is moving forward from the crash with her head held high. 

“Something that I had to teach myself was that it could always be worse,” Avery said. “My struggles aren’t the end of the world.”