She had only a split second to make a decision that would break her either way.
The arm or the neck? Eleven-year-old gymnast Mikalah Shouse chose the arm.
"On Feb. 6, while practicing for the Nastia Liuken (gymnastics competition) ... she lost control in her back tuck," explained Mikalah's mom, Susan Shouse.
And onto her arm she crashed.
"She had a traumatic dislocation with multiple fractures of her elbow and wrist," Susan said.
The Technique Gymnastics athlete, who has been a top performer since she entered the sport at the age of 4, had her arm relocated at Kootenai Health, but was sent to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Spokane for surgery the next day.
"They were able to successfully relocate and repair all the bones," Susan said. "Unfortunately, her nerves were also damaged and the ulnar nerve was caught in the fracture itself. She was left with no use or sensation in her ring and pinky fingers. Hopefully that will come back, but that remains to be seen."
The injury kept her from participating in the Nastia Liuken competition in Phoenix, but her teammates all wore special hairbands in her honor so she could be with them in spirit.
Tenacious and determined, Mikalah was back on the mats within a few weeks, begging her coaches to allow her to participate despite her injured arm in the Snow Globe Classic, which was held March 8-10 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
"The biggest challenge I have right now is because my nerve is waking up more and it gives me weird feelings," Mikalah said. "I can't use two of my fingers."
Her coaches choreographed a one-handed routine that the Genesis Preparatory Academy sixth-grader absolutely crushed.
"I was really nervous because I knew if I screwed up, I would start back where I was" with the injury, Mikalah said. "Everybody was cheering as loud as possible. Everybody stopped and was cheering."
Wearing a custom brace, Mikalah was able to execute her normal leap passes but had to replace her normal tumbling passes with one-arm roundoffs, aerials which still met the necessary requirements for her class, XCEL Gold.
Even with one arm out of commission, she managed to beat 13 two-handed gymnasts and place eighth in her class at the Snow Globe.
"On one hand, I am proud beyond words. I want her to show the world what she’s made of, I want them to see the fire and passion in her soul," Susan said. "But the mother and protector in me was fearful. Even though the skills were easy for her, there was a big risk. One wrong move or fall and we start over again or worse. But sometimes the healing that is most needed isn’t in the body but in the soul. She needed to do this. For her team, for her coaches, for her supporters, but mostly for her heart. She needed to regain some control over her situation and this was the only way her 11-year-old brain could think to do it."
"It feels awesome because my teammates have been with me the whole time," Mikalah said. "They're really supportive."
Following this high note, Mikalah and her mom received the news that an infection had settled in her injured arm.
Her doctors pulled their permission for her to practice when this infection was confirmed that Sunday. It has been a difficult realization for the young athlete to think she may not be able to return to the sport she loves so much, but she and her family remain optimistic.
"We are unsure if she will be able to ever compete on that arm again and she wanted to go out on her terms, not the injury's," Susan said. "It was an emotional day knowing that could be it, but at least she did it on her terms. But I have a feeling she's coming back better than ever."
A little taken aback with the media attention, the hardy and humble ‘tween said, "I don’t know what the big deal is. I am just doing what I love — gymnastics. "