Versailles High School sports trainer, Kaelin Hood, left, places ice on Kylie Viebrock’s knee Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Versailles. Viebrock suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the third quarter of a basketball game against the Smithton Lady Tigers. (submitted photo)
by JL Dorrell
I vividly remember the first time I ever saw Kylie Viebrock. She was two years old and having lunch with her mother, Karna Thouvenel, at Pizza Hut in Versailles.
Thouvenel was very pregnant with her second child and I was pregnant with my first.
I remember seeing the beautiful mother-daughter duo and being excited for lunch dates with my own daughter one day.
It left a lasting impression for sure.
Fast forward several years, and I am now a sports reporter here at the Versailles Leader-Statesman. I have taken several photos of Viebrock and she has been in the paper several times for her academic and sports achievements. A little girl no more, but a beautiful, strong, young woman. Her strength would be tested, and her high school career in sports would come to an end Tuesday, Dec. 10 during a basketball game against the Smithton Tigers here at home.
“Kylie was on defense when it happened,” said Thouvenel. “We are unsure of how it actually happened. She was defending under the basket and the next thing I knew the team was headed back on offense and Kylie was down in the paint, injured.”
“I knew instantly that something was terribly wrong with my knee,” said Viebrock. “I prayed it was something I could recover from in a few days. The pain was immediate and I knew I didn’t want to put pressure on it to walk off the court. As soon as the play was over our trainer, Kaelin Hood, was running to help me. Kaelin takes care of everyone as if they were her own.”
“I knew it was bad when the entire team ran on the court to help Kylie,” said Thouvenel. “Kylie was laying there and I could tell she was in pain.
“I got up and went to the floor. I knew she wasn’t going to get up. Kylie is a very tough girl and for her to be down like that something bad was wrong.”
Thouvenel and Viebrock would later be told by the orthopedic doctor that Viebrock’s ACL was completely shattered.
“Nothing was left touching, her lateral and medial meniscus were both torn, and her MCL was strained,” said Thouvenel.
“I was completely devastated,” said Viebrock. “I knew everything I had planned and worked for to get to “my best year” was gone. It scared me to think that my knee would never be the same as it was before. All those early mornings in the weight room, long hours training in the gym, and extra work at home didn’t mean anything anymore.”
“We went in knowing that her senior year of sports had ended, but receiving the news to confirm it was pretty hard for both of us to take,” said Thouvenel. “There were a few tears and a lot of silence. Kylie was upset about not being able to play sports, but also about not being able to ride her horse. She would not be able to rodeo when it started back up in February.
“The call to Coach Tim Spiers with the news was a hard call for her to make and an even harder call for a parent to hear.”
“I tried to prepare myself as much as possible for the surgery,” said Viebrock. “Beforehand, I had attended physical therapy to learn what I would be doing after the surgery during the healing process.”
Viebrock underwent surgery Monday, Dec. 23 to repair the severe damage to her knee. Her ACL was repaired using cadaver tissue. The surgery was a success and Dr. Galbraith informed Viebrock and Thouvenel that Viebrock would make a full recovery. It would still be six months filled with intensive physical therapy.
“After the surgery I couldn’t put any weight on my leg,” said Viebrock. “I was in a straight-leg-brace for one week. At my first post-op checkup to have my stitches removed, I was told I no longer needed to wear my brace. I was shocked.
“Dr. Galbraith told me I would need to work very hard to strengthen my knee, and that I would not recover fast enough to play at the end of the season. However, after a month of physical therapy I returned for another checkup and Dr. Galbraith was very impressed with my recovery.
“I had begun physical therapy as soon as my stitches were removed, and began walking without a brace. My physical therapist helped me the whole way. She definitely didn’t give me a break with just coming out of surgery. We got right to work on strengthening my knee. It wasn’t easy or fun, but I knew it was something I needed to do to heal properly.”
“It was tough for Kylie to attend practices and games watching the team play without her,” said Thouvenel. “She was the team’s point guard all four years, and team captain. During one game, a younger varsity player told me that their practices and games were not the same without Kylie, that she was the glue that held the team together, and that they missed her leadership on the floor. As a mother, that was a very special moment to have another player say those great things about Kylie.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 28 Viebrock returned for another followup appointment where Dr. Galbraith was once again happy with her recovery. She was doing better at one month and four days than most of his patients do at three months. They discussed goals she had needed to achieve by this appointment and she had exceeded them all. She was jogging one mile on the treadmill, but still unable to pivot and twist on the knee.
“Dr. Galbraith was very impressed with her recovery, and he doesn’t throw out compliments unless they are deserved,” said Thouvenel.
Viebrock was riding her horse one month post-op without putting her feet in the stirrups.
“Her horse, Fancy, is not one I had to worry about Kylie ever getting hurt on,” said Thouvenel. “To see her back in the saddle, or riding bareback was pretty heartwarming. It’s an emotional therapy for Kylie to be able to ride again.”
As the final home game of the 2020 season for the Versailles Lady Tigers approached, Viebrock asked her doctor and Coach Spiers if she could start the game and stay in for one play. Both agreed as long as she wore her brace.
Thursday, Feb. 13, Viebrock took the floor one last time as team captain and had her name called as a starter one last time.
“It was an extremely emotional moment for me to see her back on the floor,” said Thouvenel.
The Lady Tigers were playing Warsaw, who got the tip.
“The Warsaw point guard knew of Kylie’s injury and didn’t drive on her,” said Thouvenel. “Instead she kicked it down to the corner.”
Warsaw shot and the Lady Tigers got the rebound. Viebrock was hopeful that Coach Spiers would keep her in a little longer. The Lady Tigers took the ball down the court and kicked it inside. Warsaw collapsed at the paint and the ball was kicked out to Viebrock who was on the wing standing behind the three-point line where she took her shot. In the most perfect moment, she swished her three, scoring the first three points in the final game of her high school career. The referees blew the whistle and Viebrock left the floor to hug her coach and all her teammates.
“Amazingly, there was not even a play planned,” said Thouvenel. “It just happened. I cried at what an unbelievable ending it was to her final season. God for sure had his hand in that.”
“Being able to start and be in for one last play on senior night meant the world to me,” said Viebrock. “It was not in any plans for me to shoot the ball; just simply start and go out the first dead ball. I was fortunate enough to be wide open on the three-point line and make one last three to end my sports career.”
“Sports have been a huge part of our lives,” said Thouvenel. “In Kylie’s senior year, her brother Kole’s sophomore year, and her brother Luke’s seventh-grade year, I was fortunate enough to attend 8.5 basketball games in six days. It’s hard to pick one child’s games over another’s, and I try to make it to as many as I can.”
“I can count on one hand how many of my games my mom has ever missed, and only because she was at one of my brothers’ games,” said Viebrock. “My parents have supported me the whole way, and I am forever grateful.”
Just like that, one injury finished Viebrock’s sports career, and needless to say the rest of her senior year was not as anyone expected, but her grit and determination will take her far in life. She is truly an amazing young lady.
Viebrock plans to attend college and pursue a career in speech pathology.
“We would like to thank everyone who called, visited, texted, prayed and supported us through all of this,” said Thouvenel. “I cannot express, as a parent, how amazing such an outpouring of support feels.
“We would also like to congratulate Adaya Comer and Allison Foley on completing their senior year. These two girls played all four years with Kylie.”
I was lucky enough to be present on the night Kylie scored her final points as a Versailles Lady Tiger. The energy in the gymnasium was electric and the crowd exploded into a roar as she made that shot. As a mother of a baller, and as a sports writer, I cried for her in that moment. I knew her mother was feeling the exact same way, as any mother would, brimming with pride, joy and even a little relief at what transpired.
As mothers, especially the mother of daughters, we hope to raise our children to be strong and capable, to attain the knowledge and perseverance it will take to “do life,” as the young kids say.
Kylie has certainly proven that she is all those things and more. Good luck to you in all you do, I know it will be great!