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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Lavaca Senior Anna Davis Grateful for Opportunity to Play This Fall After Being Severely Burned this Summer

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Life has a way of putting things in their proper perspective from time to time for all of us. For athletes, their time and opportunity to play the sports that they love is no different. In the blink of an eye, it can all be over much too soon. And for one River Valley athlete, that almost came to be this summer in a freak accident. Lavaca senior volleyball standout, Anna Davis, faced this terrible reality this summer in a church van incident that almost took her senior year of playing sports away from her.

Anna was burned badly in an accident this summer when lithium batteries from a charging device overheated in the summer temperatures and ignited underneath her seat. The flames quickly grew, burning Anna on the back sides of both legs. In fact, Anna sustained second degree burns, and put her high school playing career in jeopardy. She has been convalescing ever since that fateful day, wondering if she would heal in time to play volleyball in August.

So, this is a story about a tremendous person and athlete who loves to play her sport and almost had it taken away. I am pleased to report that her injuries are healing, and as of approximately two weeks ago, it appeared that Anna will be cleared to play this season. But this story is also about how playing sports is a privilege, and the God-given talent to play is something to always remember and be thankful for. In Anna’s case, this sudden jolt of how quickly it can all come to an end was all too real for the senior Lady Arrow.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anna along with some of her senior teammates at a River Valley Volleyball Special internet broadcast by local broadcaster Tim Johns. We met in Lavaca that day to talk about each team’s prospects for the upcoming Class 2A & 3A high school volleyball seasons. Anna was there along with her coach, Shannon Todaro. As I spoke to Coach Todaro, Anna’s story came to light, and that’s when I knew I had to share it with our readers. So, Anna graciously agreed on the spur of the moment to do a recorded interview. This story brings her interview to you, and I think you will find it both moving and inspiring.

As I placed the recorder on the table, Anna seemed nervous. But she did very well in answering my questions, and even became a little emotional as I think the questioning caused her to reflect a little more on everything she had been through. Her fears, uncertainty, and ultimately, her relief to still have a chance to play her senior year became overwhelming to her. This is as it should be, for someone who cares deeply about her sport, teammates, and the privilege to play.

Anna began telling her story by saying, “I went on a mission trip and we were on our way back when there was a fire on the van. The fire was right under my legs. We had just left Tulsa, and it (the fire) started really quick. Luckily, the driver pulled over on the side of the road quickly and we were able to get out of the van. There was a pretty big fire. I was in the first row of the church van; there were four rows. The fire was in the first row and it was right underneath my legs. We were able to get out of the van in time. There were two other girls sitting next to me, but I got the worse of it (burned).”

Anna was wearing shorts on the van, and the fire burned the backs of both of her upper legs badly. “I was wearing shorts and it’s like all up and down the backs of my thighs (the burns). I didn’t think it was that bad, but I think I was still in shock at the time. But then, when I got back into a car to go home, that is when I think I realized how bad it was. We went to the burn center in Little Rock and they said it was second degree burns and that I would be out (of sports) for about a month.” The accident occurred during a mission trip that was held July 11-14. So, for Anna, one month for her recovery time meant August 14 or 15, just before the scheduled start of the volleyball season.

At the time of our interview, it had been approximately two weeks or a little more since the accident, and Anna was recovering well. “I went to the doctor today (August 3) and he said that they are healing really well, and she was surprised at how fast they were healing. So, she gave me the OK to return to practice. So, tomorrow is my first day back! I am really excited! It has been hard watching practice.”

I know our readers share my relief and joy that Anna will return to her team this fall. But I changed my line of questioning to ask her what all of this has meant to her. Has this given her a new perspective and appreciation for the opportunity to play sports? Becoming emotional, she began by saying, “I didn’t know if I would be able to start the season (volleyball) off on time. Because the burns were blistered, but I just prayed that I knew God had a plan for everything. I was very doubtful and I kept thinking that this is my senior year and is supposed to be my best year. I was super excited for it, and right before season was about to start, this happened.”

A portable charger containing lithium batteries were the source of the fire. It overheated on the van. “You hear a lot about this happening (lithium batteries catching fire).” But since that day in July, Anna has put all of this behind her and has done everything she can do to stay in shape and remain connected to her team as the season approaches.

The emotional part of all of this has been a challenge for Anna. “I have really been focused on healing and getting back (to playing) as soon as possible. But, I had to just sit out and rest a lot. It was really bad the first week. I couldn’t really walk, it hurt to sit down, and there were a lot of times that I doubted if I would ever be able to play again. I would come to practice, and just cry. This year, I really expected a lot. I mean, I was so excited. I am captain of the team and I wanted to do good for my team. Just to watch them practice…” Anna was fighting back the tears at this moment, and my respect and admiration for her grew and grew. She has an obvious love of the game, but her sense of obligation to her team is impressive.

Anna is not unlike any senior player who looks forward to her final year with high hopes. So, I asked her, who helped her get through all of this emotional trauma. Anna said, “My mom, she was there for everything. I could talk to her. But, there was so much support from everyone. A bunch of people, like the coaches and my teammates, checking on me.. it was really awesome for a bunch of people to care.”

My impression of Anna, although I had not known her very long, is that she is a very mature player who loves the game and who is a pillar of strength for everyone who knows her. Reflecting on the accident, Anna shared, “I think it (the accident and the prospect of not being able to play) makes me more eager to get out there and give it everything that I have this year. I am blessed to be able to play the game; not everyone can do that.”

As captain for the Lady Arrows, Anna was already in a leadership role with the team. Others on the team were already looking to Anna for leadership. But with her recent experience with the fire and her return to play, she now has an added element of experience that she can use in her leadership role with Lavaca. When times get tough in games this season, she will be able to look each of her teammates in the eye and tell them honestly that she has been through a lot worse than the situation they find themselves in, and, she was able to come out on top. What a valuable lesson that will be that Anna can share with her team.

On a personal note, I would like to congratulate Anna on her recovery and return to play for her senior season at Lavaca. She is a quality person who represents her school and the fine people of Lavaca in the best possible way. I can’t help but to cheer for her and her teammates this season, and I wish her all of the best this season.

An athlete’s playing career can be over in a flash. In Anna’s case, it was a flash fire that almost ended her playing career. And when you face that possibility, and then are able to overcome it and continue to play, there is a renewed sense of joy and appreciation for the support. I am guessing, that Anna Davis will be an absolute joy to watch play this season.

RNN Sports wishes Anna and the Lady Golden Arrows the best of luck this season!

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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