Ole Miss Rebelette overcomes injury to dance for her team

Madison Hyatt
The Oxford Eagle

For many college students, freshman year is a time for acclimation, whether it is learning to juggle a more rigorous work load, being homesick, or living with a roommate for the first time.

But for Ole Miss Rebelette, Hope Mayo, these typical changes were not her focus freshman year. Almost immediately after Hope made the Ole Miss dance team,  she was deemed injured and essentially “benched” for the season.

An out-of-state student, from Kansas City, Missouri, Mayo began dancing at an early age. Her mother, Nancy Mayo, was on the Louisiana State University dance team and put her in classes at age 2.

“I knew Hope would be good at [dance] when she was so young just because she could pick up the steps so easily,” Nancy Mayo said. “She would go back to class, and nobody else would remember the dance, but she would remember everything.

“When she first started, she would hoot and holler that she didn’t want to go to class because it was boring. We fought with her for a while, but ultimately switched her to a different studio where she began to really love [it].”

From that point on, Hope Mayo knew dance was her passion. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, she danced continuously. Beginning competitive dance at the age of 7 and dancing for her high school drill team, Mayo danced an average of 15 hours a week doing tap, jazz, lyrical dance and ballet. Because of her drive and love for dance, she always hoped college dance was in her future.

“I wanted to not only be an ambassador for my school, but continue my love for dance throughout college,” Mayo said.

Although Mayo had already made the Rebelettes team, her injury was unknowingly already in effect. Her hip began to seriously hurt during her senior year of dance, but she dismissed it as typical strain from long hours of practice. It began to throb constantly and certain positions would cause stabbing pain.

“When I came to Oxford for [Rebelette] auditions, [my hip] started to hurt worse than it ever had,”Mayo said.”It popped out of place during my first practice, and that’s when we really knew something was wrong.”

Afraid of damaging her hip more, Mayo was often forced to sit out during practices and events.

“Despite being unable to dance with them, my teammates made me feel just as much a part of the team as anyone else who was uninjured,” Mayo said. 

Even walking a few steps caused Mayo extreme pain. She started to see multiple doctors in the Oxford area, although each misdiagnosed her. No one could figure out exactly what was wrong.

During her search for a accurate diagnosis, Mayo began to work with local physical therapists and received steroid shots on a regular basis, hoping her injury could somehow be corrected without surgery. During this time, she was still unable to dance with the team at practice and for games.

“It was so hard for me because I was unable to do what I really came [to Ole Miss] wanting to do,” Mayo said. “It was like my passion had been ripped away from me.”

After months of pain without much improvement, Mayo continued to search for a way to heal. Despite the intense pain, she never thought of giving up on dance. She and her family began to realize if she was going to continue, something more had to be done.

Over an October weekend, Mayo flew home to see a hip specialist in Kansas City. The specialist immediately knew something was seriously wrong.

“We dealt with a year of misdiagnosis, and so to finally find a surgeon who said, ‘You have to be right. Something’s wrong,’ felt so good,” Nancy Mayo said. 

Through an MRI scan on her hip, Hope Mayo’s specialist concluded that her labrum had been torn and surgery would be necessary to repair her hip.According to the Mayo Clinic website, a hip labral tear “involves the ring of cartilage, called the labrum, that follows the outside rim of the socket of your hip joint. The labrum acts like a rubber seal or gasket to help hold the ball at the top of your thighbone securely within your hip socket.”

“Basically the surgeon said my femurs were not formed right and had torn my labrum, so my procedure consisted of shaving off part of my femur and pelvis, as well as bolting my labrum in three different places,” Mayo said.

While surgery seemed daunting, Mayo and her family were relieved they had finally found an answer.

“I knew the recovery time was long, and the process was painful,” Nancy Mayo said. “Even though I didn’t want her to go through surgery and rehab, I also knew she was in pain, and I hoped she would find relief at the end of her journey.”

As her classmates prepared to go home for Thanksgiving break, Hope Mayo was forced to take finals early and leave for Kansas City, as her surgery was scheduled for early December.

“It was hard because when I left, dance was in full season,” Mayo said. “My teammates were going to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, and I had to sit out again because I would still be in recovery.”

Although her surgery was scheduled to take two hours, it took five. She said doctors forgot to release a tendon in her hip and had to stretch it after they had already closed her incision, making her recovery more painful.

The day after surgery, recovery began. Mayo was required to walk around her room every 20 minutes so blood clots would not form, and she had a physical therapy visit the next day. Even with an extensive recovery process, doctors said she would most likely not fully recover for a year. 

Through therapy and the drive to overcome, Mayo began to regain her dancing ability little by little. Although not fully recovered and able to participate during practice, she worked through the pain. In March, just three months after her surgery, she was able to do a series of five fouettes, or turns, that she had been unable to do for six months.

Mayo continued to recover throughout the spring and was able to try out for Rebelettes a second time. She made the team with an “okay” to dance full-time once again.

“Hope showed so much determination through her recovery,” her teammate Lindsay Weldon said. “Despite her surgery, she never settled for less than her best. Hope has shown me that, through God and hard work, anyone can come back from an injury or difficulty in their life.”

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