Sofia Ferrante’s softball career will never be measured in singles or strikeouts, on-base percentage or stolen bases. Instead, years from now the Sobrato High sophomore will be remembered for something statistics cannot measure—the resilience of the human spirit.
Ferrante needed the latter in abundance after a terrifying dune buggy accident in San Martin on May 23, 2020. Ferrante was in the passenger side seat when the dune buggy flipped to its side. As the vehicle went tumbling, Ferrante instinctively braced herself by reaching out and trying to grab something stable to hold onto. In the process, Ferrante suffered a compound fracture to her right arm.
“Basically, her fingers were pointing back to her elbows,” said Vince Ferrante, Sofia’s father. “Bones were sticking out. The arm was bent back 45 degrees. One of her arteries was severed, but the other one wasn’t so blood kept pumping to her hand. That’s how she still has a hand today.”
Ferrante spent nearly three weeks in the hospital, undergoing four to five surgeries in that span. After being released from the hospital in late June, Ferrante would need to come back for a final reconstructive surgery in July. Doctors rebuilt her arm and hand by transferring bones, ligaments, nerves, and skin from other parts of her body.
Metal plates were also inserted as a necessity for the ongoing healing process. When Ferrante began physical therapy, there was only one thing driving her—a desire to get back on the softball field.
“It was the only thing that kept me going,” said Ferrante, who usually bats fifth in the order and plays first base or is the designated player, softball’s version of a DH. “It’s my sport; it’s always been there for me. Just being out there playing games is an awesome feeling. Having people cheering you on is amazing, and the love and support I get from the softball team and parents is incredible.”
For a while, Ferrante’s comeback didn’t seem possible. After all, doctors said she probably wouldn’t be able to resume sports for a year. Even after her final surgery in July, Ferrante left the hospital with no feeling in her right hand.
For a good month or so afterward, Ferrante needed help with simple activities most take for granted, things like putting a shirt on and walking, the latter a byproduct of being hospitalized for long stretches and the half-dozen surgeries she endured.
“My sister (Stella) and mom (Cynthia) really helped out a lot, and I appreciate them being there for me for those times,” Sofia said. “Things my family have done for me are just incredible.”
Ferrante has been seeing a hand specialist and physical therapist twice a month for the last seven months, which has been instrumental in her road to recovery. Because of the seriousness of the injury, she’s had to learn how to reuse her hand all over again and make it functional. Although she still has no feeling in her right thumb, index and middle fingers, Ferrante has learned to use them in conjunction with her ring finger and pinky.
“I would say my hand is at 80 percent now (compared to before the accident),” she said. “I have a lot of range of motion and can bend my fingers, straighten them and make a fist. I’ve definitely gone to a new normal.”
As late as December, Vince and Sobrato coach Dave Bauer didn’t think Sofia’s right hand would be strong enough to allow her to play if a season ever got underway. But in January and February, Bauer said Ferrante made a quantum leap with the function of her arm, which enabled her to make solid throws, swing the bat and make strong contact.
“Somewhere in that time, everything clicked,” Bauer said. “What’s amazing is she’s hitting stronger than ever and is probably one of the better hitters on the team right now. Here is a girl whose arm was barely functioning where she almost lost it, to now it’s almost back to normal. You see her arm and you think, ‘How is this girl still doing it?’ There is no muscle mass in her forearm and she is doing all of this through Covid. She’s got a great attitude—the best of anyone on the team.”
Perhaps that’s the only way to explain why Ferrante never sunk to a state of despair, even though no one would’ve blamed her if she did. After all, when you’re 15 years old and the dune buggy you’re riding in violently flips over causing an injury so gruesome that the first people on the scene made sure to cover your arm so you wouldn’t have to see it, the ensuing mental trauma could be just as damaging as the physical affliction.
It wasn’t just the trauma of the accident, but the multiple surgeries that followed, leading to a huge scar and an arm that Vince said, “Looks like a tail of a mermaid.” When Ferrante was in the hospital, staff checked in and gave her resources where at any point she could talk to a psychiatrist about her ordeal.
“I never did because my mental health was pretty good,” she said. “Of course I was sad at times, but fortunately I was able to recover quickly. I never got in a depressed state.”
This despite the fact that no one—not even the doctors—knew how functional her arm and hand would be after undergoing severe structural damage. Ferrante knows the odds of her right arm and hand ever returning to what it was before the accident are slim. However, she doesn’t get caught up in the numbers game; if Ferrante did, she would’ve never made a speedy recovery in the first place—a miracle in itself.
“I think it’s crazy to think how far I’ve come, but also knowing how much farther I can go,” she said.
Vince expressed tremendous pride in seeing how her daughter dealt with such adversity. He endured every parent’s worst nightmare when he came onto the scene and saw his daughter helpless, her arm mangled.
“I can never unsee what I saw,” he said. “Just looking at it, I didn’t think she would have an arm from the elbow down. It would be gone (amputated). But she beat the odds because she’s a strong kid. She’s had to teach herself to eat, write and do things with a hand where she can only feel half of it. And she’s doing phenomenal. I’m so super proud of her.”