Former pro soccer player takes next step in recovery after debilitating crash

A former professional indoor soccer player is taking another step toward recovery after she was injured in a crash last summer.

Mona Rodriguez hit a big milestone by completing the outpatient physical rehab program with Orlando Health. Rodriguez was a professional indoor soccer player on the Central Florida Crusaders before her life was put on hold when she was hit by a truck. Orlando Police say the driver was at fault.

"It feels like I see the progress I've been making since day one, so I just feel grateful," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez had brain bleeds and a broken ankle, wrist, and arm. Her pelvis was fractured, and her hip was dislocated. She had to learn to walk again, but now she's achieved that goal and more. She has been at the Orlando Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Institute, focusing on improving her motor skills to return to work. For her, that means re-learning how to shuck oysters. 

Before the crash, Rodriguez worked as an oyster shucker at High Tide Harry's while she was playing soccer. She wanted to get back to that job, so her occupational therapist got creative to help her by having her practice with fake eggs.

Rodriguez also wants to play soccer again, so her physical therapist is helping her with that, too. 

"She was outside kicking a soccer ball with our physical therapist. He had her running drills when she was ready for that," said Kelly Varela, the supervisor with the Orlando Health Outpatient Rehabilitation Institute.

Varela explained that physical therapy looks different for each patient.

"It's about the type of therapy that we can design, and if you look around, we have therapists that take every single patient, and they make it so patient-centered that we are doing something different for every single patient," said Varela.

While Rodriguez is recovering physically, she's also working on the mental aspect. Because of her brain bleeds, she has severe memory loss. She can't remember most of her time in America when she moved here from Colombia to play soccer nearly a decade ago. She's been working with her therapist on how to retain new memories and remember the old ones.

"I didn't know I was playing soccer. I didn't know I was a coach," said Rodriguez. "But, life continues. All I’m grateful for is that I’m alive to make more memories from now on and always."

"It's moving forward, but also helping her retrieve those other memories as well as she was retrieving her memories from before. So remembering that her father taught her how to play soccer," said Varela.

With each challenge thrown at her, Rodriguez finds the back of the net, reaching her goals and hoping to inspire others along the way.

"You can see, you can talk, you can experience, you can learn, you can make a mistake because you are alive. So never give up," she said. "I can show people that if I make it, you can make it."