For Kendra Cantelope, running was always an escape – a chance to be alone with her thoughts.
A year and a half ago, Kendra was running along 56th Street in Des Moines, just south of Douglas Avenue, when she was struck from behind by a hit and run driver. A neighbor spotted her in a ditch, unconscious.
“I try not to think about it,” Kendra’s mother Joani Meyers said. “We didn`t realize all the other things that were wrong with her. Just looking at her face, which was pretty much smashed, and then you`re sitting there thinking about what could have been. What could have happened?”
Kendra was severely injured. Her arm, collarbone, foot and even her eye socket were all broken. That hurt but it was nothing compared to the months of intense therapy.
“Really painful at times,” Kendra recalled. “Especially the surgeries. Because the broken bones healed quickly and there`s no ever lasting effects with that. But the tendon thing really got to me. It was really painful surgery and just difficult to recover from.”
But there was one thing that kept her going. One tiny incentive that forced Kendra to push on and to step up. Her five year old special needs daughter, Ava.
“I didn`t want her to come to the hospital because I didn`t want her to see me like that. But she kind of came around the corner and looked at me. And the look on her face was, she just, she didn`t know what to say. She didn`t know what to think. She wasn`t even sure it was me. Then she came into the room and asked if I was ok and I said ‘yeah’ and she gave me a hug.”
That was the hardest part for Kendra. For five years, she was the care giver. Now, someone else would have to do that.
“That was difficult. I tried many times to lift her and do what I used to be doing and there were times when I just couldn`t do it and I had to stop or I was going to drop her and that was not ok and I had to literally tell myself out loud sometimes, you know, ‘Kendra knock it off.’”
Robert Edmunds, the man who hit Kendra, eventually turned himself in. His lawyer said Edmunds tried to kill himself after the accident. He pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two year suspended jail sentence and had to go through alcohol rehab.
Kendra says she has forgiven him. But Ava still asks questions.
“The only thing she ever really said about him was ‘mommy, when someone hurts you they have to tell you they`re sorry. Did he tell you he was sorry?’ And I said ‘yeah baby in court he told me he was sorry.’ ‘Well ok then ok.’”
Kendra’s mother Joni says she’s not as forgiving. But Kendra’s moving on one step at a time.
Last week, she got a new pair of running shoes. Kyle’s Bikes gave them to her for free saying they were so moved by her story.
Kendra`s plan is to keep on moving forward with her family and her life.
“Just doing what I can. Just thankful to be alive.”