Willow Herman – The Girl Who Suffers From Brittle Bone Disease Shows The World That Nothing Can Stop You From Chasing Your Dreams

When Willow Herman decided that she wanted to be a goaltender, her parents were surprised. For them, the surprise wasn’t about a girl playing hockey, a traditionally-accepted boy’s sport. Rather, they were worried about Willow’s physical condition. Willow suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, which is also called the brittle bone disease. Minor impacts can break the fragile bones in her body. The condition plagued her entire childhood. She had suffered many things – broken ribs, fractures, broken arm, etc. She had to separate her childhood into two phases – the normal phase and the fracture cycles. During the fracture cycle, she would have multiple broken bones sometimes overlapping one another. It was a difficult time for Willow and her parents during those fracture cycles. Especially when her parents could hear the cries of their little daughter and were forced to remain helpless.

Now, at 17, her fracture cycles have stopped. She suffers one break every year.

But then, why did Willow Herman choose to goaltend? As a goaltender, she is expected to fling her whole body in front of pucks and there’s always a chance of the puck hitting any sensitive spot. Also, in the heat of the game, players might just fall on her while trying to score a goal. It almost seems like she did not care about her or her body.

Partly, that might be true. Willow has accepted her condition but she doesn’t want it to rule over her. This fearless woman was not going to back down from enjoying life and doing what she loved. When she was living in West Virginia, hockey surrounded Willow, it inspired her. By age three, she had learned skating and by age five, she was playing inline hockey. Goaltending came to her as the most logical position that she could take. Actually, it does come with lesser risks than being a player. You don’t have to collide with other people and fall down while you are skating at full speed. It was a position that would keep her safe.

But that doesn’t really mean that she has escaped the pain. Quite recently, while she was trying to do a special goaltending trick, a player fell on her and broke her ankle. At times, when she is standing on the field, her body starts to ache from the ankle and upwards. There were moments when she couldn’t really get up from the bed. During those periods, Willow had to rely completely on painkillers. She pumped her body up with thousands of painkillers so that she is numb to the pain.

However, that’s not a life Willow wants or ever wanted. Whenever she has to take the painkillers, she wonders about the side-effects and about how normal people would not have to deal with this. Sometimes, she has to take only a few. But that doesn’t make it any better for her.

If disability was the only thing Willow had to face on the field!

As a woman playing a boy’s game, Willow had to face her share of sexism too. She has gone through all the traditional remarks that a girl faces when they are trying to make a mark for themselves in sports. People called her too small. They said that girls do not play hockey. She was called a variety of things, some of which she doesn’t even want to recall. Even her coaches weren’t on her side. Sometimes, her playing time would be limited by the coach. During the evaluations, boys would get their chances once they turn up and as a girl, she had to do five times the work to prove that she was capable too. She knew it was not fair and she wanted to do something about it.

But it is her indomitable spirit and the will the go on that keeps her pushing through the barriers. Yes, sometimes, she does get angry but she knows how to channelize that anger in a positive way. Whenever a person from the opponent team doubts her skill, she just likes to show them what she is made of. She never allows them to score a goal. Willow gets a kind of pleasure seeing the person froth in their mouth with anger when they try and fail to get the puck past her. There’s a delight in proving herself again and again. And like all daughters, she has also become her parent’s favorite. When any parent would point out how a girl is stopping boys, they would not go into gender discrimination. For them, Willow is a goalie on the field and she is one of the best. That she’s a girl and proving a point is just a wonderful addition.

The story of Willow should not be hidden from the world. She is an inspiration for all young women out there and for every person who is suffering from a condition that stops them from following their dreams. That’s why she became part of Bauer’s ‘The Women’s Movement Never Stops’ series. Her video has gone viral all over the internet with millions viewing it. Bauer wants to represent women and their struggles in sports and how they push through all the hurdles. Bauer came across Willow when she received a letter from her about her struggles as a girl in sports. But when she started talking to her, she came to know about her rare bone disease. It’s like her story got a whole new dimension and power. Her struggle ceased to remain just about a woman – it was a struggle about people with disabilities as well.

Like all people, Willow wants her dose of inspiration too. She does not find many women in her sport and cannot really share the challenges she faces as a girl playing in a boys’ team. So, last October, Bauer invited her to Miami to meet with Team Canada captain and Les Canadiennes superstar Marie-Philip Poulin. Getting to know her and her struggles gave Willow the strength to move ahead.

Willow is not someone who will hold herself back. She wants to move forward and play during her college days too. As of now, she is worried about her next game. Determined to make a mark, she is already engaged in practice. She wishes to go as far as she can until her body doesn’t allow it. We wish you all the luck! https://thehockeynews.com/news/article/the-inspirational-story-of-willow-herman-im-just-going-to-keep-going-until-i-cant