THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – As a sophomore in high school Raquel Gunkel was told she was never going to play again. Three years later, she is seeing time on the pitch for the Cal Lutheran Regals.
The freshman had been diagnosed with Chronic Compartment Syndrome. A syndrome caused by the repetitive use of muscles that results in a loss of blood circulation and can cause temporary or permanent damage to nearby nerves and muscles.
At that time in her life, Gunkel was playing basketball and soccer while being a full-time student in Littleton, Colorado. Being extremely active all the time, Gunkel had started to feel tightness along with stiffness in her legs.
The severity of the issue continued to increase, though, until Gunkel could no longer walk and was rushed to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with the syndrome. That same school year Raquel had two leg surgeries performed simultaneously on both legs.
"They told me I was never going to play sports again. I was extremely devastated," Gunkel said.
Without the ability to walk for two weeks, the road to recovery was a tall task, but Gunkel was determined. With a tremendous amount of hard work, Gunkel retaught herself how to walk and received dry needle acupunctures along the way.
"I have really good days, and really bad days" Gunkel explained. However, within just six months, Raquel had been cleared to play the morning of team tryouts.
Through all the ups and downs, Gunkel has always had one goal – playing a sport at the collegiate level. Knowing that she wanted to explore beyond Colorado, Gunkel appreciated the warm weather and beautiful beaches, making California an easy fit. After visiting California for a CLU soccer camp and touring the campus, Gunkel knew she was in the right place.
"She has a great energy about her and is well-liked by her teammates. She fit into the culture right away," Cal Lutheran's head women's soccer coach Frank Marino said.
Now with the season well on its way, Gunkel has recorded one goal on the year and is having the time of her life every second on the field.
"I've never been on a team with this kind of vibe before, everybody clicks and its awesome" Gunkel said.
Gunkel says that her greatest memory about sports, after overcoming such slim chances of ever being able to play again, is the pure fact that she has grown such significant appreciation for the love of the game.
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Release by Jeff Wilson, Sports Information Student Assistant