Whitney Sibol has opened her eyes and is forming words—these simple acts are now major accomplishments for the 23-year-old marketing consultant who was involved in a severe swimming accident last Sunday.
Sibol, who was training for a triathlon and participating in an Under Armour program to inspire young female athletes, was swimming in the Bird River in the late afternoon on June 3. Her father Tim Sibol and boyfriend Adam Pupo were operating a spotter boat and her mother Judy Sibol was swimming behind her. Buoys had also been set up to mark off the area.
In spite of the precautions, a power boat ran over Whitney Sibol, with the upper left side of her body taking the brunt of the hit. An artery was severed, her rib cage caved in, her pelvis and shoulder were severely damaged and her left arm had no pulse, among other injuries, her mother said.
Police told the family that the driver of the boat had been drinking alcohol, but not above the legal limit, Judy Sibol said.
Baltimore County police were not immediately available to confirm additional details on the person operating the boat.
"It's every parent's worst nightmare. To see your daughter lying there like this," Judy Sibol said. "They think they're partying out on the water and that it's still OK to drive. No matter what you're driving, you need a designated driver."
Whitney Sibol was immediately taken to Maryland Shock Trauma after the accident, where she received 10 hours of surgery. As of June 8, she remained in the hospital, recovering and facing more surgeries, her mother said.
"We were very concerned that she may lose her arm, but at that point, we just wanted her alive, though it looks like they were able to protect it," Judy Sibol said.
"She doesn't remember anything about the accident ... she keeps asking questions and just wants to be normal again. It will take a while, but they expect a good recovery," she added.
In the days following the accident, the Sibol family, Whitney's boyfriend and Whitney herself have drawn support from online social networks.
Many of those who have reached out are area residents, family and friends—the Sibol family has lived in Kingsville for the past 23 years and Whitney Sibol graduated Perry Hall High School in 2007. The family is using a service called CaringBridge to post updates on her progress and gather words of encouragement.
Under Armour has also used the main page for its What's Beautiful campaign to update fellow program participants on Whitney Sibol's progress. Posted messages from participants frequently mention prayers on her behalf and are labeled "Team Whitney."
Support has been extended on Facebook, as well. One What's Beautiful participant recently wrote on the program's page: "Please allow us to complete her challenges in her honor and to stand in solidarity for our sister. #TeamWhitney."
Whitney Sibol's program profile and athletic goals, posted before the accident, can be found here.
"Everybody is posting from all around the world, sending in videos. People from Hawaii are commenting. It's been incredible," Judy Sibol said.
Her daughter's athletic background is speeding the recovery progress, she said.
"It's been hard, but she's a tough girl," Judy Sibol said. "She's like, 'You tell me to move my fingers five times, I'll move them 10.'"
"We are optimistic, but we don't have a lot of a choice. Whitney just wants to move forward," she said.
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