Megan Blunk’s life journey has been a harrowing one, sometimes filled with unimaginable pain and suffering.
In 2008, she was involved in a brutal motorcycle crash where the rider lost control of the bike and slid off the road. It caused Blunk, the passenger, to break 18 bones and paralyzed her from the waist down.
That year, after the crash, two of her close friends committed suicide.
On top of all that, Blunk has battled depression her entire life.
But Blunk, a 26-year-old Gig Harbor resident, persevered, earning a scholarship to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois, to then earning a spot with Team USA for the Pan-American Games in Toronto in the summer of 2015.
Now, she’s reached her ultimate goal: Making the Team USA wheelchair basketball roster for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in September. She found out she made the team in January.
“I just felt like I finally knew I had made it all the way through my journey,” Blunk said. “It was the ultimate goal of mine throughout the last seven years. Knowing I sealed it, it felt really good.”
Blunk’s first calls were to her boyfriend, Marshall, and her father. It took a few days for the news to even sink in for Blunk.
It was the ultimate goal of mine throughout the last seven years. Knowing I sealed it, it felt really good.
Megan Blunk, Team USA wheelchair basketball player
“I think I was more in shock,” she said. “Things don’t really hit me until a few days later when I can really realize what has happened. It just felt really good.”
She wanted to post something to Facebook, but didn’t. For Blunk, using social media is often a struggle. She sees Facebook as a place where people only give people a glimpse into the positive aspects of their lives. To her, it paints an incomplete picture.
“I want to be able to completely share my story,” Blunk said. “I struggle with social media because I want to be honest. I want people to be able to see how hard it is for me at one moment, and then I want them to be able to see something amazing that’s happened.”
But she understands the lows can be uncomfortable for people to digest, and Blunk has been in some dark places during her life. After the crash and the suicides of two of her close friends, Blunk went to the University of Illinois.
“My wheelchair was total crap,” she said. “I hated playing, I hated everything and I didn’t want to be there. In between each session, I would go to my room and cry my eyes out. The coaches don’t want to know you’re having a hard time. It was hard to have so many negative thoughts, always wanting to die.”
But she knew if she just kept pushing herself through it, eventually things would get better. So she kept playing, began taking anti-depressant medication and seeing a counselor. Now, she’s representing the United States at the highest level.
I turned the accident into something good. I’ve always believed it happened for a reason. I see it as proving to myself that I’m strong and if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen.
“I turned the accident into something good,” Blunk said. “I’ve always believed it happened for a reason. I see it as proving to myself that I’m strong and if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen. It’s been my goal because it’s been my journey helping me through everything, keeping your eyes on that goal. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and just pushing yourself through all the obstacles.”
And it was basketball that might have saved her.
“I get stronger each time I go out on the court,” Blunk said. “When I’m in the flow zone, it feels amazing. You don’t think; everything is just instinct.”
Blunk is finishing her master’s degree in social work. She wants to help people who are going through tough times.
“I want to help people struggling with drug addiction, alcohol, abuse,” Blunk said. “That’s the No. 1 thing that pushed me. My depression — the fact that when you’re that depressed — you really don’t care about doing things for yourself. When you know other people are being helped by what you’re doing, that’s what keeps me going.”
Blunk will most likely come off the bench for Team USA. Her role has been clearly defined.
“I do get good minutes,” she said. “I just do the dirty work. I’m not a shooter. I like making things happen on the USA team. I’m just hoping to play the best I can and have complete confidence. I want to go into every game and give it my all.”
The 26-year-old has a simple piece of advice for people going through similar situations that she’s been through in her life: Hang on.
“I think it might be cliché, but right when you think it’s never going to get better, that’s the most important time to keep pushing forward and believing it will get better,” Blunk said. “You’ll be completely surprised how much better it does get. It’s one of the best feelings to experience.”