BUHL — Buhl teenager Lexi Bingham is pushing forward.
The 16-year-old has defined the odds in recovering from a broken neck she suffered in a snowboarding accident more than two years ago. And she continues to gain mobility.
While at home June 29 in her neighborhood at Clear Lake Country Club, Lexi said she’s doing “really good.”
She’s still doing physical and occupational therapy — but only twice a week now, compared with five times a week soon after the injury.
Her main goal now? To run again.
“My leg kind of turns in and I have pretty bad asthma,” Lexi said, which has been a challenge.
But she wants to become more active and play the sports she loves. “I really want to get back into softball and basketball,” she said.
Lexi even asked her mother, Jerri Bingham, if she could go snowboarding again. But her mom said that’s not going happen.
And understandably so.
Lexi used to go snowboarding every winter. But a trip in February 2015 with classmates at Pomerelle Mountain Resort in Albion had a terrible outcome.
She went over a jump and fell forward onto her face. The impact broke her neck.
Lexi, who was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the time, was admitted to the intensive care unit at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Doctors told the family Lexi was paralyzed, and she was on a ventilator and feeding tube.
The Bingham family saw an outpouring of community support, with more than $23,000 in donations to help with medical expenses.
After three months in the hospital, Lexi returned home. Several Buhl businesses changed their signs to welcome her back, and neighbors greeted her by hanging up balloons and banging on pots and pans.
Lexi faced a long road with rehabilitation. She’s walking, but still sleeps a lot, Bingham said, because she gets physically tired after a long day.
And it’s not just Lexi who’s adjusting.
Bingham, a nurse practitioner, changed jobs at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center so her work schedule is better staggered with her husband’s. That way, one of them can be available to help care for Lexi.
It also allows them to stay in their home at the golf course — an area they love.
Despite the challenges of the last couple of years, Lexi is experiencing some typical teenage milestones like getting her driver’s license.
“She’s pretty scary when she’s driving,” Bingham said. That’s because dad taught me how to drive, Lexi responded.
And she’s thinking about college and a future career.
Lexi wants to become a physical therapist at Primary Children’s Hospital. She hopes to attend the College of Southern Idaho and then transfer to the University of Utah.
A service dog
Lexi has been trying to get a service dog through a nonprofit organization called Canine Angels Service Teams in Grants Pass, Ore. But plans have fallen through for two years in a row.
It costs between $20,000 and $25,000 to raise a service dog, Bingham said.
The family wouldn’t have to pay the whole cost, but would have to put up $7,000 to $8,000, plus two weeks of housing and food expenses in Oregon in order to go through training with the dog.
Sometimes, if she’s having a long day, Lexi gets tired and falls. Sometimes, she can’t get up on her own.
Having a service dog would help Lexi with her balance. And a dog could even help her with running again by allowing her to have something to hold onto and run in sync with.
Lexi is allergic to dogs. The family put in a request for an Aussiedoodle — a hypoallergenic Australian shepherd and poodle mix — two years ago.
But the dog ended up being kicked out of training, Bingham said.
This year, something similar happened again with a different dog Lexi was supposed to get. The news came just a couple of weeks before the family was slated to go to Oregon.
“The ‘doodle’ part in them are really high strung,” Bingham said about the dogs.
They’re considering having Lexi do allergy testing to see whether she could tolerate being around a golden retriever as a service dog instead.
Life at school
Lexi is preparing to enter her junior year at Buhl High School this fall.
“Freshman year was rough,” she said. “Sophomore year was alright and I’m looking forward to junior year.”
In addition to classes, Lexi plays on Buhl High’s girls golf team and is manager for the girls varsity basketball team. She also plays in a golf league with her mother.
Lexi doesn’t get a handicap when she plays golf and didn’t participate in the state championships this spring, which the Buhl High girls team won, Bingham said. But “she beat other kids out to go to golf tournaments.”
She also started as manager for the basketball team during her sophomore year.
“I do drills with them and go everywhere with them,” Bingham said, including games as far away as American Falls.
She said she wanted to be the manager her freshman year, too, but was in a wheelchair at that point.
Just like many rallied around Lexi throughout her recovery, she’s now helping her basketball teammates. “I just help them out mentally and physically.”