Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
Nineteen-year-old Staci Kmetz beams a smile for the camera, standing alongside her is grand champion heavyweight market lamb, Foxtrot, who had just sold for a record-breaking sum of $30,100 at the Fayette County Fair’s 4H Livestock Auction in Pennsylvania. The fair’s previous record-highest was $90 per pound; Foxtrot brought some $215 per pound, with more than 180 contributors across 15 states.  

The road to this snapshot was paved with both trial and triumph. Her determination, love for 4H, and the support from her livestock family and friends helped see her through to this moment, a memory which she would hold in her heart forever. 

“When it comes down to my initial thoughts while Foxtrot and I were breaking the record for money per pound, all I could think is how blessed I am to have all of the love and support behind me of not only friends but also family. The livestock community truly comes together when adversity hits members,” Staci said in an interview with Valley Vet Supply. 

This moment got even better—when after the grand total was raised to purchase Foxtrot, he was then given back to her. Those who knew Staci were well-aware of what an incredible friend, and support system, he had become to her.  

“He’s still in the barn and is my best friend,” Staci said.  

“He’s more expensive than our barn,” Mother, Jacki Kmetz, laughingly said. “She spends three hours every day in the barn with Foxtrot, whether she’s doing his leg hair routine, setting him up, or just having a good talk with him.” 

THERE WAS AN ACCIDENT. “Freak things happen every day. You don’t think it will hit close to home,” Jacki said.   

Every year, the Kmetz family provides the lambs for Fayette County’s annual Ag Fest Days – Staci presents for both two days of learning and ag appreciation held at the county fairgrounds for surrounding 4th-grade classes.   

On May 22, 2019, Staci unloaded two lambs at the fairgrounds by herself, just like any other day, the first with no problem. “I went back for the second one, and when I opened the door of the popper, the lamb lunged forward, trying to jump out of the bed of the truck. I just bear-hugged it to get it down, and in the process, the lamb kicked me in the side of my temple,” Staci said. “I fell off the bed of the truck to the concrete-paved ground.”  

She shook it off as most anyone would.  

“I continued my day, did my presentation to about 500 4th graders, and went home,” Staci said. 

THE NEXT DAY, THINGS BECAME DIZZY. She returned to the fairgrounds for Ag Fest Days, when she started getting double, triple-vision dizziness, and a painful migraine. “The directors of the Ag Fest found me lying with one of the lambs in the pen when it was lunchtime. So, my brother came and picked me up and we went to the ER. I was diagnosed with a minor concussion and was sent home – no biggie. As the days went on, my speech started getting very slow and soft and to the point where it seemed like I was whispering, but I had no idea,” Staci recalled.   

Weeks and a number of hospital visits later, Staci was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), and Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI).  

FOCUS ON THE VISION, NOT THE CIRCUMSTANCE. “I do not feel from my hips down to my toes, and my legs do not hold me up; however, that does not stop me from doing much. Every day, I try to stand on my own, and I faceplant. I have faith that one day I will try to stand and my legs will hold me up as they once did. My speech had a regression in March of 2021.  

I continue to fight every day to better my walking ability and speech, as I focus on my vision and not my circumstance,” said Staci.  

Staci relearned everyone in her life through pictures and stories told to her, the alphabet, numbers and more. She quickly learned how to continue showing, as well, saying “To get down to the height of my lambs I show, I use my “show crutches” as we call them because they are simply only used for the show ring.”   

Her mom shared how her farm-kid tough approach, and unwavering determination, are nothing new. “She’s tough; she is a brute. When she was a senior in high school, we always called her our beast and she is – she does a lot. If you want it, you’ll figure out how to do it, and she’s living proof of that. You have to have faith and don’t give up,” encouraged Jacki.  

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