Sandy • His stomach cramped from nerves as he checked in at the scorer’s table, about to play his first basketball game of the season.
But that pain was nothing compared to what Alta’s Elijah Glissmeyer endured almost four months earlier in an accident that nearly ended his life.
“My stomach hurt so bad when I went in [to the game],” Glissmeyer said. “I didn’t want to smile. I was so focused, but I was so scared.”
The junior fell off a cliff while hiking near Lake Powell on Oct. 19 and was hospitalized for two weeks with multiple injuries, including a broken right orbital bone, broken nose, partially collapsed lung, broken hips and a compound fracture of his left arm.
Returning to basketball or football, the other sport in which Glissmeyer participates at Alta, seemed a remote possibility.
“When I was falling, and right after, I thought I was never coming back,” Glissmeyer said. “It was scary.”
Alta guard Trevor Hill visited Glissmeyer at Primary Children’s Medical Center and called his condition “ugly,” and said that at the time, a return to the court this season seemed unlikely.
“He came out here in a wheelchair during our pictures,” Hill said. “We started talking about [coming back] then, but we were like, ‘Don’t get your hopes up.’ But he just kept working hard.”
But Glissmeyer healed and rehabbed — and continues to undergo therapy on a left arm he can’t yet and may never again straighten fully. After a month, he was walking on his own, and in December he returned to school full-time.
He was cleared to return to basketball in January and was nervous about upsetting the Hawks’ rotation. But coach Jim Barker had no such reservations. Adding a 6-foot-6, 230-pound player in the post was something the undersized Hawks desperately needed.
“He played with us all summer long,” Barker said. “I knew some of the plays he wouldn’t know, but we just go more basic when he’s in. It gives us another big body to go against bigger kids.”
Glissmeyer returned two weeks ago to a raucous ovation from the crowd, including a packed student section. He scored eight points off the bench as Alta beat rival Jordan for its fifth consecutive victory.
“After the first basket I made, I was relieved,” said Glissmeyer, who wears a padded sleeve to protect his left arm. “By the second half, I was fine.
“I’ve been able to go full-speed in practice for the past three weeks. It’s awesome. Nothing hurts.”
He estimated he is at about 90 percent of his pre-injury ability, and he plans to return to his defensive lineman position in football in the summer.
Barker said in many ways, he’s the same old “Gliss.” But he has noticed a change in Glissmeyer off the court.
“I went to visit him a couple of days after he was [flown up], and he told me that day that there’s a reason he’s still here,” Barker said. “I think it was a change for him to realize there’s more to what I’m doing in my life than going through the motions. I think he’s gotten more serious about things, and it’s been fun to see.”
Glissmeyer confirmed the event changed his life, beyond the physical scars and pain.
“In a way, it was a good experience I had,” he said. “It was horrible, and I would have wanted it a different way, but you learn to appreciate everything. And it’s great that I’m here and I’m back.”
All the way back
Alta junior Elijah Glissmeyer recently returned to basketball, less than four months after sustaining multiple injuries in a hiking accident.
Glissmeyer, also a defensive lineman in football, sustained a punctured lung, compound fracture of his left arm and a broken right orbital bone, among other injuries.
The 6-foot-6 center scored eight points in his first game back Feb. 8 against Jordan.