Olympic Dreams: From Coma To Comeback | News

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Olympic Dreams: From Coma To Comeback

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ishika "Isis" Lay has spent her whole life fighting opponents bigger and stronger than she is.

The boxer grew up around tough competition. 

"Because I had a lot of brothers, I always felt a little tougher than the normal girl," she said in an interview while training back in August.

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She worked out at HeadStrong Gym at Jacksonville Beach. Her trainer Sonny Cummings would have to put her in the ring with men.

"She was like Sugar Ray," Cummings said. "She was like a female Sugar Ray Leonard."

Her fight was to make team U.S.A., to go to London, to win Olympic gold. 

"I'm number one," she said back in August. "I'm right here from Jacksonville, Florida and I'm putting it back on the map for boxing."

In order for Isis to qualify for the Olympic trials, she needed to finish in the top 3 in her weight class at the Police Athletic League national championship held in Toledo, Ohio.

She won her first match, but in her second there was tragedy.

Isis fainted in the middle of the ring while circling her opponent, outside of punching range.

"I got a phone call after the fight," said her mother Blanchie Wingo. "But it wasn't from her, it was from a police detective."

Their daughter was rushed to a Toledo hospital, where she spent the better part of three weeks in a coma.

"I questioned God about the incident," Blanchie said. "Why my child?"

Why would a trained fighter, who was used to taking hit after hit, go down without taking a devastating blow?

Ponte Vedra neurologist Daniel Kantor says it's possible she had a concussion, and had not recovered fully.

"It's called Second Impact Syndrome," Kantor said. 

He is a doctor for the Jacksonville Sharks and is a boxing ring-side physician.

"If the brain hasn't fully healed from the first concussion, even a small impact, not even to the head, can cause coma, paralysis, loss of speech and even death," he said.

Isis lived through her coma, but she hasn't been back to Jacksonville. 

She moved home with Blanchie and her step-father Jeff in Marion, Indiana. 

"When she first came back it was like an infant," Blanchie said.

Isis is doing her best to regain her speech, one half of her face still appears to be paralyzed. 

"This is kinda tough for me," she said. 

Her speech is muffled but understandable. 

"This is the first thing in my life that's been really tough."

Isis says beating the coma was just the first of many future opponents. 

The next is getting her speech back, then being able to walk on her own.

"My balance is not 100%," she said.

"She has progressed everyday," said Blanchie while helping her daughter out of her wheelchair.

Because of tight finances, Blanchie and Jeff have to handle Isis's physical therapy. 

They work as much as three hours a day, pushing her harder than an Olympic trainer.

She does stairstep exercises, leg bends and resistance training to keep her muscles from weakening and to enhance her balance.

Isis says she still has dreams of winning an Olympic medal one day.

But her mother has other goals for her.

"I'm not going to be here forever," she said. "I want to know that she is able to take care of herself."

The family estimates their hospital bills have climbed over $600,000. And they say medicare/medicaid won't help with physical therapy anymore.

There has been a fund set up at Wells-Fargo, for information on how to help you can get in contact with the family attorney, John Phillips -- Isis@knowthelawyer.com


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