At one point in her life, Santa Clarita Christian softball’s Hailey Aguilar says she basically forgot how to walk. The pitcher dealt with an osteochondral defect of the talus bone since the fifth grade. Simply put, that means her ankle bone was deteriorating in both legs. “It’s the weirdest feeling,” Aguilar says. “It’s just like, it’s painful and it feels like you can’t walk. I don’t really know how to even explain it. It’s just like, your ankle just gives out basically. Even a little bit of weight on it felt like bricks on it.” After a long travel softball practice that fifth-grade year, Aguilar noticed a pain in her left ankle as she was running the bases. She dismissed it as a minor twisted ankle and rested her leg for a while. When the pain persisted, she went to see a doctor. She was told it was strained ligaments and was given a boot and some medicine.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES: More Than an Athlete: West Ranch’s Austin HernandezThe pain wasn’t alleviated. “It just was not getting better and she was still complaining,” said Aguilar’s father and former SCCS softball coach, Ali. “She has a high tolerance of pain. So for her to complain is kind of for me and my wife, it’s like, something must be wrong.” At the second doctor visit, Hailey learned that her ankle had been twisted so badly that blood circulation to that area of her leg was cut off. Her ankle was dying. By the time she reached seventh grade, surgery was necessary. In a four-hour operation, the bone and the torn cartilage was cleaned up. The bone was then riddled with holes in an attempt to allow the blood to flow more freely. It wasn’t as effective as doctors had hoped. The bone was still decaying. Sixth months later, she went back for another four-hour surgery in which surgeons broke the bone, cleaned out the dead parts and fill it in with cadaver bone. The condition began to appear in her right ankle, so she went back for a similar third procedure to resolve the issue not long after the second. By operation No. 3, Aguilar was a junior in high school and was still playing softball. Throughout the medical pandemonium, she had to sacrifice travel softball and had to sit out of a little league championship in middle school. But she never missed a game of SCCS softball. “It was a bummer, but I just tried to push through it and work through the pain … I just wanted to finish up and make my mom and dad proud,” Aguilar says. She began pitching her junior year as well, based on the needs of the team. “I called on her as her coach to pitch, and it’s not easy, especially on her ankles,” Ali says. “But she’s a gamer, and she wanted to do what’s best for the team and for me.” Aguilar had her left ankle operated on once again, this time a three-hour surgery that involved removing dead bone and replacing it with cadaver bone. In her fifth and final procedure, the hardware was removed from the left ankle. She received additional cosmetic surgery to reduce the scar.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES: More Than an Athlete: Valencia’s Brett CurradoAs the medical attention faded, her SCCS softball career brightened. By the end of her senior year, Aguilar was All-Heritage League first team for all four years. “We’re very proud of her,” Ali says. “With everything she’s been through, the five surgeries, four on one ankle, one on the other ankle and to have the kind of numbers that she put up during all the pain that she was going through (is amazing).” Aguilar will have pain for the rest of her life, but she’s not letting that get in the way of softball. She plans to help out with middle school softball at Trinity Classical Academy, where Ali recently accepted a position as assistant athletic director, and continue her education at College of the Canyons with hopes of majoring in criminal justice. Since graduation from SCCS, she began playing in a slow pitch softball league with Ali. The pace of the game is easier on her ankles, since less running is involved. “We played together in a tournament, and it is funny playing with your daughter for the first time,” Ali says. “I know a lot of families that do it, but for me even from my wife seeing us go out there and playing together competitively, she had a great time with it.” After all the pain and surgeries, Aguilar used the invisible bricks on her ankle to build something great.