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Blue Devils' Lax back on court after motorcycle crash

Kylie Lax calls her accident a life lesson. Unfortunately for Lax, most of life's lessons don't leave such constant reminders. A scar about fourto six inches wide starts just above the knee on Lax's right thigh and extends up to her abdomen.

Hidden by the Merced College sophomore's volleyball knee pads and high socks is a similar mark that starts near the top of her calf and extends down to her foot.

Lax's left side didn't fare much better. It's also covered with unmistakable signs of road rash.

They can also be found on her stomach, back and arms -- with no guarantee that they'll ever fade away.

But despite all that, the former Atwater star considers herself fortunate just to have walked away from a motorcycle accident that left second- and third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body.

"It sucks that it happened, but I wouldn't have taken it back," Lax said honestly. "A situation like this, you really get to see who are your friends.

"I still hurt, but things could have been much, much worse."

Much of that fateful August 10 night in Atwater and the weeks to follow are a blur to Lax.

Mind-numbing drugs and even more mind-numbing pain contributed to that.

But some details of the evening remain very vivid.

With her boyfriend and his friends riding around on street bikes, Lax decided to join in the fun.

"I'd been on dirt bikes plenty of times, so I thought 'I'll ride that,' " Lax said.

"I was going probably 40 to 45 miles per hour. My shirt was blowing up in the back and I turned to pull it down -- like I have a thousand times before.

"I must have hit a bump or something when I had one hand on, because the next thing I knew I went down."

Lax's boyfriend, David Towes, could only watch in horror.

"She fell and everyone started screaming," Towes said. "The bike finally came to a stop, but her body kept tumbling down the street."

Lax slipped in and out of consciousness for much of the night, but does recall one moment of terror.

"I just remember waking up while I was rolling and thinking, 'Oh my God. I fell off. Oh, my God.' "

Lax was rushed to the emergency room, where one of the longest evenings of her life was just beginning.

Remarkably, the petite two-sport athlete walked away without any broken bones.

Not that she would have noticed.

With road rash covering over half her body, all of Lax's focus was on the burns.

"I couldn't move. I just hurt so badly," Lax said. "There was a huge chunk missing from my foot. They thought they'd have to do a skin graft, so I couldn't even walk.

"The first thing they did was cut off my clothes and give me drugs. Then they started scrubbing my skin to get all of the road out.

"It hurt so much, but I didn't cry. I was in such shock I couldn't really react."

Merced College volleyball coach Jessica Casey went to see her player as soon as she got word of the crash.

With only sketchy details of the accident, Casey wasn't sure what to expect when she reached the hospital.

The scene was far worse than anything she'd imagined.

"As soon as I saw her, my concern went from would she be able to play to would she just be OK," Casey said. "Volleyball was the furthest thing from my mind seeing her laid up in the bed.

"Her little body was so beaten up, and her mom had moved out of town.

"It was rough, but when I left there, I was at least certain she'd be OK."

Casey's relief proved a little premature.

Lax got an infection and her temperature shot up to 105 degrees.

"That was really the scariest time for me," Lax admitted. "I had an infection and they really didn't know what from.

"My heart rate was dropping to zero, like, every 45 seconds. It was the only time I thought I might be in trouble."

The hospital got Lax's fever under control and eventually she was moved to a burn unit in Fresno for a few more weeks of recovery.

Once it became clear Lax was out of danger, she started focusing on one goal.

Returning to the court.

"When I was in Fresno they told me I might be walking in a month or two months," Lax said. "It all depends on your body.

"They just said you need to eat healthy and have lots of protein, so my mom would make me these big dinners and got me all these vitamins.

"I was walking in a week and a half."

Surprised by her progress, Lax dared to ask if she could play.

"The doctor said technically it would be possible, but it was going to hurt so bad I wouldn't want to."

All Lax heard was yes.

Less than a month after the accident, Lax contacted Casey about rejoining the team.

The MC coach was caught off guard by the call just a few days before the start of the school year.

"I set her up a locker -- because I knew she would be around -- but I didn't put anything in it," Casey said. "Kylie loves the game and I knew she'd want to be around, but I never thought she would play."

Lax was present for the first day of practice and has been there for every one since.

That's not to say the her doctor's assessment of the pain was inaccurate,

Lax's ankle was tweaked in the accident and is a constant nuisance while she's on the court. The chunks of skin missing from the bottoms of her feet are still healing.

So are the burns that cover most of Lax's body.

Everytime the ball comes in contact with Lax's skin, there's pain.

And as a back row defensive specialist, Lax has plenty of contact with the ball.

"When you stretch out or dive it literally feels like your skin is stretching," Lax said. "My arms usually hurt when I pass the ball, but at our first home game I dove for a tip at the net.

"When I hit the floor it was unbelievable pain. I got up and it felt like I was bleeding."

Despite the constant pain, Casey said Lax has never once complained.

"I'm just, like, there's nothing I can do about it, so get over it," Lax explained.

While Lax's toughness is an inspiration to her teammates, it's also a delicate pitfall that Casey must navigate.

Since the season began Lax has suffered a groin problem, a few bouts of sickness and still has to have the parts of her that are healing wrapped and iced regularly.

"It's a tough situation," Casey said. "She wants to go all out, all of the time -- which as a coach you want.

"But her body has been through so much trauma she's more susceptible to injury.

"When I take her out, she wants to know if she's done something wrong and I have to explain that I'm just getting her a rest."

Lax reluctantly accepts her coach's judgment and simply gives her all during her time on the court.

And when she's out there the Lady Devils have one of the most formidable back rows in the Central Valley Conference.

Along with sophomore Miki Shido and freshman Kayla Clarot, MC (5-4) has the defensive chops to battle for NorCal playoff spot.

While Lax's playing time has diminished, it's hardly slowed her productivity. Lax leads Merced College in digs and ranks among the best in the CVC.

"This team was something I wanted to be a part of," Lax said. "My ankle hurts. My feet hurt. My skin hurts. But I figure nothing can compare to what I've already been through, so I can deal with it.

"If you saw the helmet, you'd know how bad things could have been. If I didn't die, my brain wouldn't be doing well.

"I know I'm very fortunate."