“Thank goodness for modern technology!”
That was the refrain from Susquehanna University freshman Amanda Lemire last week as she pondered the distance (about 400 miles) between her in central Pennsylvania and Boston, where her father, Barry, is recovering at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital from a horrible mountain bike accident back on Oct. 6.
That accident resulted in a broken C6 and C7 vertebrae that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors have told him that he has a 20 percent chance of walking again.
Heartbreaking as that prognosis is for Barry, he immediately realized that his condition would prevent him from getting to any of Amanda’s games. And, as a father, mentor and two-year youth coach for Amanda, he had never missed one of her games.
“He was my biggest fan, my biggest support and he was always there for me,” said Amanda, a three-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star for Pinkerton Academy. “We would talk basketball after every game and all the time.”
Which is where modern technology comes in as a saving grace. Amanda and Barry talk and do FaceTime every day and Barry live streams every game from the hospital.
“It’s wonderful,” he says. “Family and friends come over and we go to a large room with a big screen and watch it together. There’s no sound, but I love it.”
Thus far, Barry has also loved what he’s seen of Amanda’s game. Playing for a 3-1 Susquehanna team, she’s averaging 9.8 points off the bench and is the team’s second-leading scorer while shooting a stellar .583 (7-for-12) on 3-point attempts.
Dad couldn’t be more proud.
“She’s doing great and it’s just beautiful watching her play,” he said. “And I don’t think they realize how good she really is. Before she’s through, I think she’ll be the school’s all-time leading scorer.”
Pinkerton coach Lani Buskey believes that the father-daughter bond has contributed to Amanda’s success on the court.
“Amanda was one of the most successful basketball players to don a Pinkerton Academy uniform,” said Buskey. “Her success came from hard work, dedication, and confidence and, if you know Barry Lemire, you understand exactly where Amanda learned those traits.
“She didn’t just get her grit, determination, and hopefulness from just anywhere. Those are his qualities in her.
“They have a wonderful relationship that transcends the basketball court, but Amanda has no greater fan than her dad from the sideline. They talked after every game and he helped her bring together her complete game as a point guard.”
Amanda, a spunky 5-foot-2 with a beautiful shooting stroke, is obviously pleased with the start of her college career. She, however, is taking a “so far, so good” approach.
“Coming into the season, I didn’t know what to expect but I felt I had to prove myself,” said Lemire, who lives in Auburn. “I’m working hard to keep getting more minutes every game.”
Amanda’s fast start might partly be explained by her father’s insistence, after his accident, that she focus on her schoolwork and basketball rather than return to comfort him.
TAKES DAD’S ADVICE
“I wanted more than anything to come back and see him because he’s my best friend, but he didn’t want me to,” said Amanda. “He wanted me to stay here and stay focused. He told me, ‘I don’t want you to get caught up in my injury. You have your own life.’”
Amanda has taken her father’s advice to heart. Susquehanna coach Jim Reed has been impressed.
“You never know how a freshman will fit in and adjust to college basketball ... a higher level of basketball that’s bigger, faster, more intense and more cerebral. Some kids just don’t successfully adjust.
“For Amanda Lemire, it’s like she has already been here for three years. Certainly there is a learning curve but she has hit the ground running. I couldn’t have asked for more and she has exceeded expectations.
“She has given new meaning for me that ‘big things come in small packages.’ Amanda has been great in every regard.”
Amanda’s performance thus far has been an inspiration for her father as he deals with his long road back, but she has been just as impressed with him.
“He has such a strong faith I can’t believe it,” she said. “He sees this as an opportunity to show what God can do. At times, he gets a little down, but I tell him to keep the faith just like he tells me.”
For a little while longer, Amanda and dad will continue communicating with modern devices. But she’ll be returning home, to Auburn, for Christmas vacation Dec. 16-26 following a game in New Jersey on the 15th. He is scheduled to come home from Spaulding about Dec. 10.
“That’ll be tough for him, learning to be independent at home,” said Amanda. “I hope to help him while I’m there.”
Just like Barry has helped her over the years.
In order to enhance his chances of walking again, and even skiing, Barry Lemire hopes to participate in a program out of Stratham, New Hampshire, called Project Walk. It’s an intense exercise-based training program to increase mobility in clients with spinal cord injuries.
The program is expensive, however, and is not covered by insurance. To help with those costs as well as offset the cost of household changes needed for wheelchair accessibility in the home, friends can help out by contributing to gofundme.com/a-gift-for-barry-lemire.