Back on Track
PROSPECT — Details of the car crash are a blur to Kaylee Biando.
The Prospect High student can only remember the day before the June 5 accident. The senior had received medals during a school ceremony for athletic and academic accomplishments.
She recalls waking up in the hospital after that.
"I thought I was dreaming, honestly," Biando says. "I was in complete denial that I had been in a car crash."
The reality, and the pain, soon set in. Biando crashed the 1996 Geo Metro she drove on Butte Falls-Prospect Highway while taking her brother, Brawley, to his eighth-grade graduation. It is believed that she moved into the shoulder, perhaps because of the sun, before over-correcting. A tire blew and the vehicle swerved across the road and rolled twice.
Biando needed emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot and reduce swelling. Her neck had a hairline fracture, her left hand was mangled and her right shoulder had a torn muscle.
She could have been paralyzed, suffered brain damage or died, Biando says. But thanks to the quick actions of community members and local medical personnel, the cheerful 17-year-old is healthy nearly a year later.
That alone was victory enough, father Kenn Biando says, but his daughter wasn't satisfied with just surviving. She spent just 20 days in the hospital when some estimated she could be there for six months, Kaylee says.
"The thing is, I overcame all of it," she says.
She sat out the volleyball and basketball seasons before returning to track. Simply participating would have been an accomplishment, Prospect track coach Tracy VanWormer says, but Biando has dominated. She has the top Class 1A mark in the shot put with a mark of 39 feet, 41/2 inches and has placed first in that event at all six meets she has competed in. Her farthest throw is seventh best in the entire state (Class 6A Lakeridge's Maddie Rabing has the top mark of 42-81/2). At the 1A level, though, the next best mark in the shot put is 37-1 by Dufur's Taylor Darden.
Biando's top throw in the discus (102-3) is sixth best in 1A.
Biando, who also competes in the javelin, has advanced to state the last three years in the shot put and hopes to secure the first crown of her career this spring. Districts are set for May 17 and state action begins May 22.
Aside from athletics, Biando is a valedictorian, student body leader, cheerleader and Pear Blossom Festival princess. She will graduate in May, has been accepted into the University of Oregon and aspires to become a neurosurgeon after job shadowing the doctor who helped save her life.
All that Biando makes of the crash is that it placed her on a new life path.
"Things happen for a reason," she says. "I may not know what that reason is right now, but it will come someday."
The 15-year-old Brawley had suffered only cuts and scrapes, but Kaylee was seriously injured June 5. He found her phone and called their parents in the moments following the accident.
A pair of Marines who happened to be passing through helped stop Biando's bleeding and dialed emergency services. Butte Falls fire chief Jeff Gorman, who was another to arrive on the scene early, requested an emergency helicopter before paramedics from Shady Cove arrived, says Kenn, who arrived soon after.
Too distraught to drive himself, Kenn had a friend take him to the hospital after seeing Kaylee placed on a stretcher and into the helicopter.
Bobek Miroslav performed the brain surgery.
"There is no way I could ever thank them enough or repay them," Kaylee says.
She woke up in the intensive care unit at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. Kenn remembers the moment. He and wife, Lori, were always nearby.
"She was completely out of it, and then her pretty eyes were open and she said, 'Hi, Daddy,'" he says.
Kaylee soon spoke with Miroslav.
"He was trying to talk me off the pain," she recalls. "He asked me what I wanted to do when I got older. I said, 'I want your job.'"
Meanwhile, around 200 community members from Prospect and Butte Falls participated in a charity walk for Biando June 22.
"The community has been so supportive," Kaylee says.
Biando was soon home, remarkably quick. She did physical therapy for 21/2 months and wore a neck brace for four months. On cold days she can feel the screws and plates that were inserted into her left hand. An incision on her scalp from the surgery is nearly healed and her hair has grown back.
Biando visits Miroslav a few times each month for a job shadow.
The financial aftermath of the crash is still felt, says Kenn, who runs a barbecue business.
"The bills are still pretty brutal," he says. "It is what it is. We have her and that is all that matters."
Back to school
Returning to school felt great, Kaylee says, but it was tough missing volleyball — which she has played since third grade — and basketball, which she has done since second grade. Those sports were simply too dangerous for her to participate in. She instead helped keep statistics in both.
What could have just as easily been a year of disappointment has become a season of personal records for Biando in track.
"Just getting back to track encouraged me so much," says Biando, who was third at state in the shot put with a heave of 35-93/4 and sixth in the javelin as a junior. "It is my sport. If I could choose any one of them, it would be track."
VanWormer had initial trepidations.
"When it first happened I had concerns, even up until the first day of practice," VanWormer says. "I got a notice a week before (the season) started. Up until I had the paperwork, I wasn't sure how she'd do."
Biando has focused more on reading her body and improving her form.
"The form is harder for her this year," VanWormer says. "She gets frustrated with it, but it's practice. We just gotta keep at it."
"I think I am more impressed than she is," VanWormer adds. "She expected to come back and instantly throw as far."
It didn't take long before Biando was doing just that. She bested her PR in the shot put on April 4, when she threw 37-11 at the Coquille Twilight Meet, and has topped that mark twice this month.
It was a big moment for Biando, who nearly cried afterward. It made her think about the crash and just how far in the rearview mirror it's become.
"It was just so breathtaking," Biando recalls. "When I threw it at the meet I thought it was a 40 and I almost started crying. I still wanted to cry seeing that with all that I've been through (and) how far I've come. It's so miraculous. It's just great."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt