Business major says her string of knee injuries inspired her gratitude and trust in God
Starting from 8th grade, Eden Leauanae, a freshman business major from Provo, Utah, said she tore her ACL four times while playing basketball and volleyball. As a result, she received surgery and physical therapy three times over the course of her high school career, she added.
In 2017, Leauanae said she injured her right knee ACL, MCL, and meniscus while playing church basketball. As a result, she had surgery and recovered during her eighth-grade year.
During her freshman year, Leauanae said she re-injured her knee while preparing for a state basketball championship game, resulting in a partially-torn ACL. This time, she received partial surgery and recovered for three months, she added.
Leauanae said she couldn’t get the full surgery done and her doctors could only clean her meniscus. Had she received the complete surgery, it would have taken her nine months to recover, she added. She said she did not want to sit out for that long and wanted to keep playing. During her sophomore year, Leauanae said she continued to play on a partial tear until she tore her left ACL while playing summer ball. Consequently, she said she had to sit out playing during her junior year.
Leauanae shared she tore her right ACL during practice before her senior night game and was not able to play. She waited to do surgery until after her high school graduation and prom, she added.
Keep the perspective in mind
Since she was 11, Leauanae said she always wanted to compete in Division I college basketball. Initially, she said her goal was to attend the University of Utah to ensure she was surrounded by sports and her family.
Dealing with multiple injuries frustrated her, Leauanae said, and she questioned why God would allow this to happen despite her being active and diligent in church callings.
Throughout her injuries, Faleni Leauanae, Eden’s father, said he and his wife, Jessica, would counsel her to “keep the perspective in mind.” There is a meaning behind her challenges and being able to share them with others, he added.
After her third and fourth injuries, Faleni Leauanae said it felt as if they as parents were becoming redundant and unprogressive with their advice. He said it’s one thing to recover after a year but another to resume activity with the thought of possible reinjury.
Jessica Leauanae, Eden’s mother, said it was painful to see her daughter grow farther away from fulfilling her dream. “She continually puts her body on the line, knowing full well the chances of a second, third [and] a fourth tear getting higher each time.”
The hardest part of her recovery was trusting in God’s plan for her, said Eden Leauanae. She said mentally she was struggling to convince herself to push through her injuries and recovery. Jessica Leauanae said the hardest part for Eden was there occurring thought that God was punishing her.
“Sometimes, as a parent, we want to move through the struggles and storms of life quickly. But I’ve learned to sit through the pain with her - to let her have her hard days and not rush her to be cheerful and optimistic and to allow the Lord to comfort us.”
Eden Leauanae said her love for basketball and desire to make her parents proud is what motivated her to persevere. She said she wanted to set an example for her younger brothers to push themselves and not give up.
Faleni Leauanae said Eden has the drive to get better and stronger and possesses the mental capacity to pick herself back up and move forward. Pushing forward and being resilient has been her biggest character builder, Eden Leauanae added.
Jessica Leauanae said Eden is one of the bravest, persistent, and most tenacious people in the world and has dealt with many physical challenges from a young age. Growing up under these circumstances has pushed Eden to develop an amazing work ethic, she added. During her recovery, Eden Leauanae said the support of her parents and ward members helped her conquer feelings of frustration and anger from being unable to play. On her senior night, she said her family filled up a portion of the bleachers and supported her even though she didn’t play.
“Even if you feel like you’re alone, there are people cheering you on even if they’re in the background.” Faleni Leauanae said having a support system helped Eden feel loved and helped her through her trials. She can reflect on her challenges and understand how it has helped her, he added. Faleni Leauanae said Eden doesn’t want people who know about her trial pitying her.
He said when Eden shares her story with others, it can help them appreciate the hard times they’ve gone through. Eden Leauanae said she doesn’t want people pitying her, however, her parents reminded her to not downplay her story because they knew how hard it was for her.
A different kind of “comeback”
Attending BYU–Hawaii was not her plan, Leauanae said, she has been happy to meet new friends and family members in Laie. She has become more familiarized with her Samoan culture by meeting other people of her ethnicity, she added.
Leauanae said coming to BYUH has helped her to refocus herself spiritually by being more grateful for the blessings in her life. She said her mother encouraged her to list down five things she is grateful for each day.
Taking a break from basketball and being away from family has taught her to also trust in the Lord, Leauanae shared.
Fia Salatielu, a freshman undecided major from Lehi, Utah, said she is inspired by Eden’s bravery, courage, and drive to push herself. Her faith to reroute her college path, she added, is inspiring to her, and she hopes to be as uplifting and motivational as she is. Salatielu said Eden’s “comeback” was building a strong testimony that has pushed her to want to serve a mission. •