Reaching for every goal
At each appointment, Dr. Cheng measured how far Ashton could bend her finger, then gave her an attainable goal and the exercises to reach it.
“The end goal was always for Ashton to be able to compete at state,” Rhonda said.
“Dr. Cheng made sure I knew exactly what I had to do to be successful, and then set small goals along the way so that I could fulfill each one,” Ashton said.
By spring 2018, Ashton was ready to get back in the gym and to compete again. She not only qualified as a Level 9 Junior Olympian for the state and regional competitions, but she went on to nationals, an achievement her mother says would not have been possible without Children’s Mercy.
“Dr. Cheng was always able to ground Ashton each time she saw her,” Rhonda said. “She would tell her how much progress she was making and that she knew Ashton could do it. Ashton truly looks up to her.”
Ashton agrees and said, “I just really think Dr. Cheng is awesome!”
“Ashton understood the severity of her injury,” Dr. Cheng said. “It takes a certain level of maturity, as well as being goal-directed and a high-level athlete, to do this for yourself. Plus, Ashton had good therapy and a very supportive family. It took us all working together to get her back to a competitive level.”
One year after surgery, Dr. Cheng removed the screw from Ashton’s finger so that it wouldn’t impinge upon her movement.
With some additional hand therapy, Ashton advanced to Level 10 of the Junior Olympics this year. But during a college showcase event, she broke her thumb while performing a skill on the bars. After having it examined by Dr. Cheng, she required surgery again to place two pins in her thumb. Her cast was recently removed, and she’s hoping to return to competition.
Ashton’s goal is to compete at the state, regional and national levels in 2020. Ultimately, she hopes to earn a gymnastics scholarship for college, and to one day study physical therapy.
“Gymnastics is a tough sport,” Rhonda said. “Ashton has fractured toes, cracked a rib and broken her finger and thumb. Dr. Cheng did an excellent job of getting her back to competition, but in a safe manner. She understood that this is who Ashton is and what she loves to do. It’s great we have doctors who understand that.”