For 15 years of the first 18 years of her life, Bishop Lynch High School alum Jackie Dupuis ('13) was a passionate gymnast. But during her senior year, her passion was in jeopardy of never again being reality.
"I didn't think I'd ever be in gymnastics again," Jackie said while recalling her very near brush with death. "It took me so long just to recover physically, and I was lucky to come out without any serious long-term damage."
That was almost four years ago, when Jackie spent months in hospitals and almost two weeks in a coma while doctors scratched their heads to figure out just what had attacked her body. Forget the fact that her gymnastics career was in jeopardy … the LIFE of this high school senior was in grave danger.
A member of the BL cheer team, Jackie had just finished cheering in the Friars' first home game on a Friday night in September of 2012. Although she had planned to go out to eat with friends after the game, she instead started to feel ill and got a ride home.
"I remember feeling like I had strep throat and my head was pounding," she said. "I figured I'd just go to bed and try to sleep it off."
She may have hoped to feel better, but woke up in a worse condition, prompting her mother to take her to an urgent care doctor. Tests for strep and mono came back negative, so the Dupuis' made an appointment with their pediatrician for early the next week.
Later that weekend, however, the family made a startling discovery.
"My mom actually found a lesion on the back of my neck," Jackie said. "It looked like someone had taken a spoon and dug into my skin."
The next morning, Jackie had lesions covering her body, and although she was breathing, her parents were unable to wake her. She wouldn't wake up for almost two weeks.
"They called the ambulance and took me to Plano and they immediately gave me a tracheotomy," she said. "I was sedated for a week or two as they tried to figure out what kind of bacterial infection I had, but they still haven't found the answer to this day."
During that time, Jackie's lungs and kidneys failed and she not only had to endure grueling physical and speech therapy, but kidney dialysis as well. Just as soon as she was ready to go home, another setback led to throat surgery, resulting in another month-long hospital stay.
However, despite it all, Jackie's determination helped her overcome the physical trauma her body endured, an event that saw her lose around 50 pounds. At her lowest point, Jackie's frail body tipped the scale at just 70 pounds.
"I've been fortunate, the only long-term effect has been blurry vision in one eye," she said. "It took a lot of work to get back to where I was, physically. I was used to running 5K's, so it was pretty frustrating to not have that ability. I worked as hard as I could to get back in shape."
Jackie completed her first two years of college at Collin County Community College, but enrolled at Texas Tech University for the most recent fall semester. As soon as she was accepted, that familiar competitive fire sparked again.
"I started checking out their gymnastics club and was at practice the first week of classes," she said. "I honestly thought I was done with the sport, and I was kind of okay with it, because I'd competed for so long. But now that I'm back in the gym, I couldn't imagine losing it forever."
Due to its "club" status, practices and competitions aren't as strenuous as other sports, but Jackie still approaches it as she always has.
"We only practice twice a week, but I'm there for two hours a day, five days a week," Jackie said. "I'm starting to get all of my skills back, so that's pretty exciting. I was surprised to see how quickly it came back to me."
She had been out of gymnastics altogether for a couple of years while her body recovered from illness. That Friday night way back in 2012 might have appeared to be the end for her gymnastics career, but passion and determination can make a person do some extraordinary things.
"I love it now just as much as I did when I was three years old," Jackie explained.
Just two months ago, the Texas Tech University gymnastics team arrived in Allen to compete against other Texas universities. Among the 100 or so athletes is a petite brunette, wearing the Red Raider colors and looking just as focused as ever.
To most, she is just another competitor. But to her friends and family in the cheering section, she's an inspiration.
Jackie is back.