It was only her fifth day on the job.
Monique Burkland was moving a pallet using a standup forklift when her foot got caught between two forklifts.
“When I looked down, my foot was just mangled — the bones were protruding through my shoe,” Burkland said. “I just thought to myself ‘Well, this can't be good.'”
The days following the accident, Burkland's lower left leg would be amputated, and she would start the long recovery process of working with a prosthesis.
But this isn't a sad story about Burkland's accident. Rather, this is the story of how Burkland has become an inspiration to many, including her doctor.
“She inspires me when she comes, she makes me smile, and she has accomplished a goal that less than 1 percent in the world could ever think of doing,” said Dr. William Ertl, an orthopedic surgeon at OU Physicians.
Burkland, of Ardmore, is a Paralympic silver medalist. She is a member of the 2012 U.S. Women's Paralympic sitting volleyball team.
In September, the team won a silver medal after losing to China for the gold medal. Burkland has been on the sitting volleyball team since 2010.
Two years after her accident, Burkland saw a pamphlet in the doctor's office for a sitting volleyball team based at the University of Central Oklahoma. She soon scheduled a tryout date and began the training process, going to camps to learn the sport.
It wasn't easy. Burkland and her teammates do not play sitting volleyball in wheelchairs. Rather, they are on the floor, lunging forward as the ball flies through the air.
The sport takes significant upper-body strength and endurance. During a sitting volleyball match, a part of an athlete's body between the buttocks and the shoulder must be in contact with the court whenever a shot, or attempt at a shot, is made, according to the London 2012 Paralympic Games website.
When Burkland first started, she was slower than her teammates on drills and felt like she was doing horribly.
“They were all really encouraging,” Burkland said. “They were like, ‘That's how we all started out. Once you figure out how you move better, then you'll get faster,' which happened.”
It was a proud day when Ray Bachmeier watched on YouTube as his granddaughter played sitting volleyball in the London 2012 Paralympics.
Burkland has always had a natural athleticism and was an all-state softball player in high school. After her accident, she wanted to continue playing sports.
“I always encouraged her, and I've always told her if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well,” Bachmeier said. “So, she has lived that lifestyle, and I think she keeps a positive attitude, and she makes good decisions.”