LUCKEY — Hannah Firsdon passed out after gym class as a fifth grader at Pemberville Elementary seven years ago.
|Eastwood’s Hannah Firsdon (left) and Lake’s Nicole Pennington cross the finish line in the 400 relay at last week’s Division II district meet at Oak Harbor. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Hours later, she learned she had a brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed immediately.
Doctors at two different hospitals were mixed on how long she would live, let alone if she would ever compete in athletics again.
But after learning how to walk again, going through numerous physical therapies and still enduring pain in her back and shoulders today, the Eastwood High School senior is still competing.
And she's excelling at a high level athletically and academically.
Firsdon will compete in the long jump and the 400 relay at the Division II regional track meet tonight and Saturday at Lexington High School.
Qualifying for state would add to an already impressive season for Firsdon, who has the team's fastest time in the 200, third-fastest time in the 100, second-best long jump and is fourth on the team in points.
"She's overachieved what we ever expected," Eagle coach Nikki Sabo said. "The medical issues she's overcome and had to deal with are amazing. She's made a huge improvement all four seasons."
Firsdon had the tumor removed at the University of Michigan Hospital where they told her she had a 100 percent chance of surviving past five years.
Less than a year later, she was competing again.
The doctors Firsdon originally saw gave her only a 78 percent chance to survive after five years.
"I really didn't know what was going on that much, but I was scared," she said. "My family was really scared, but I felt that I had to be really strong for them, so I tried not to let it get to me that much."
She participated in soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and softball growing up, and eventually settled on track in high school. She hoped to play volleyball, but the stress on her back and shoulders was too much.
Firsdon's tumor was on the back of her brain near the spinal chord, the area which helps with the body's coordination.
As a result, she had to learn to walk again. She still has therapy for her back and shoulders, and has to pace herself when competing.
Firsdon eventually stopped competing as a sophomore because the pain was so intense she could barely walk. She also dealt with a significant pain as a junior last season.
"This season has been good, said Firsdon, who still has an MRI every year or two to make sure the tumor hasn't returned. "I'm healthy."
Firsdon won the state indoor championship in the triple jump as a sophomore and is the school-record holder in the event.
This season, she finished seventh in the long jump at the Northern Buckeye Conference meet and helped the Eagles win the 400 relay. Joining her on the relay were senior Aricka LaVoy, junior Maddie Jackson and sophomore Reagan Boice.
At last week's Oak Harbor district, Firsdon was fourth in the long jump and the 400 relay team won.
"To qualify for the regional in the long jump was great because I didn't expect it," said Firsdon, who has a best of 15-10 1/2. "I just want to do my best at the regional and see what happens."
Eastwood is hoping to return to state in the 400 relay. Jackson, LaVoy and Boice return from last season when the Eagles qualified, but didn't advance to the finals.
Their district time of 51.61 is the sixth-fastest of the 16 regional qualifiers, with the top four finishers in each event qualifying for state.
"We just want to keep improving ... hitting all of our handoffs and lowering our time," Firsdon said.
Her success is even more impressive because she still has trouble walking a straight line because of the tumor. Yet, she can do a technical, coordinated event like the triple jump.
"It was really difficult at first to learn to walk again," Firsdon said. "I take it all slowly and work at it, and my family and friends, and coaches have always been so supportive."
But athletics aren't the only area of success of Firsdon, who takes honors courses and has a 3.78 grade-point average.
A captain on the track team, she's a member of the National Honor Society, Key Club, Art Club, Senior Executive Council (she's the senior class president), Student Council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She's also involved with the school blood drive, performed 200 hours of community service and attends CedarCreek Church.
She's the daughter of Tony Firsdon, and Todd and Cyndi Henline.
"If you had a school spirit award, she gets it," Sabo said. "She goes to everything. She always has a smile on her face and she's always encouraging of her teammates. She's Miss Eastwood. She has a lot of fun.
"Whatever she pursues in life, she already has the work ethic, the determination just because of what she's done through sports, overcoming and working through the pain," Sabo added. "She has all those skills. She's going to be very successful at whatever she pursues."
Firsdon will attend Kent State and major in nursing.
"Having the tumor really made me see the positives in everything," Firsdon said. "You can choose to get down on yourself, but you have to stay positive. That's the only you're going to accomplish anything. You have to trust people around you because they help you a ton, just getting through everything … my family, my friends and my coaches have always been supportive of me."