March 16, 2010

Despite life-changing accident, she's still a goalkeeper at heart

RACHEL LENZI

— By

Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — More than two years ago, Carrie Holmstrom had mapped out her future as a potential goalie in NCAA Division I soccer. But a car accident in the spring of 2006 changed everything for Holmstrom, a resident of Dartmouth, Mass., who is now 19 years old.

As a result of the accident, Holmstrom lost both of her legs and the fingers and thumb of her right hand, and was in the hospital for more than seven months. The accident ended her dream of playing college soccer.

But for a few minutes Sunday at the Wainwright Complex, Holmstrom got a chance to play in goal for the Nova Soccer Club in its final game of U-19 pool play at the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Championships.

Late in his team's game against the Parsippany (N.J.) Gazelles, Nova Coach Jim Leaverton tapped Holmstrom on her shoulder and gave her the news -- she was replacing her teammate in goal. With titanium prosthetic legs and the biggest grin on her face, Holmstrom was back where she felt she belonged.

''I wore cleats every day except for today!'' Holmstrom said after the game. ''But I was back at home again. I was on the field, and I was crying.''

As Holmstrom jogged onto field No. 19 at Wainwright, the crowd gave her a hearty round of applause. On a neighboring field, play stopped in a U-19 girls' game between Coastal Soccer Club and Beadling, and players, spectators and officials turned to cheer for Holmstrom.

''We were all crying on the sideline when she went in,'' Coastal Coach Jeanne Zarrilli said. ''It was unbelievable.''

In April 2006, Holmstrom was involved in an accident in which her SUV burst into flames after it struck a tree in North Dartmouth, Mass. Removed from her car seconds before it exploded, Holmstrom suffered burns across 70 percent of her body, including her right arm, which remains covered in scar tissue.

''Three men pulled me out of the car, and I call them my three angels,'' Holmstrom said. ''I was airlifted to Mass General and stayed in the hospital for seven months.''

Holmstrom admits that she doesn't remember much about the accident, but she can recite many numbers related to it.

She's undergone 34 surgeries. She's walking on her fourth pair of prosthetic legs, one of which recently broke.

''They're all put back together with chewing gum, duct tape, whatever we could find,'' Holmstrom explained, laughing. ''And I get new ones July 1.''

Holmstrom spent more than three months in a medically-induced coma. She missed two semesters of high school after the accident, which happened three days before her 17th birthday.

Holmstrom will attend Salem State this fall, after graduating from Dartmouth High School, where she received a standing ovation as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

With the future ahead of her, Holmstrom keeps in mind an important part of her identity.

''You know what?'' she declared. ''I was a goalie. And I still am!''

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

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