The small scoreboard in the back right corner of the field had just dipped under 19 minutes when Katherine “Kat” Marchesseault walked over to the scorer’s table to check in.
A hush fell over the crowd watching on the opposite sideline.
Marchesseault took a knee and waited, as behind her the sun continued to fall gently closer to the red-orange treeline that paints the background of the soccer field in the back of Brooks’ campus. But today was not the story of a sunset.
This was a new beginning. Or, better yet, a tear-felt welcome back.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, there was a stoppage in play, and the ref signaled in subs. Immediately, the entire crowd went up in a thunderous roar as the North Andover native jogged her way onto the field for the first time this season.
On September 11th at about 7:30 p.m., Marchesseault was the passenger in a fiery single-vehicle crash on Bradford Street that left her and the three other occupants of the car — all students at Brooks — in serious condition. All thankfully made it out with their lives, but the accident left Marchesseault with a chipped pelvis, broken bones in her foot and, most seriously, severe burns on her left leg and ankle.
“She had to have emergency surgery the night she went in,” said mother Margaret Helfrich Marchesseault. “There was fear she would lose her left leg from the knee down.”
But after seven surgeries and 30 days spent overnight at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Marchesseault, incredibly, was able to make her return to the pitch last Wednesday afternoon — just a mere 56 days after the accident.
And that was more than enough to bring tears to the eyes of the friends and family there to support her.
But it got better.
Now, what if I told you that Marchesseault — in her first game back from a severe, life-altering car crash — scored not one, but two goals? Pretty remarkable, right? Like, so remarkable you can’t even begin to believe it’s true, right?
Sometimes, all you can do is just sit back, smile and cry at the beauty of sports.
“This was incredible,” said Marchesseault after the game, with a protective wrap secured around her scarred leg. “My family, friends and teammates all helped me push through in this game. Not only playing for myself to get back out here but playing for them, because they’re what got me through all of this.”
Early on after the accident, Marchesseault had to realize and accept that she would carry scars on her leg for the rest of her life.
She didn’t care.
“She said all along in the hospital, ‘I just need it to function, I don’t care what it looks like,’” said Margaret.
The burns were so severe that Marchesseault needed a graft. For those unfamiliar, her surgeon, Dr. Robert Sheridan — who the family is forever grateful for — had to take skin from the top of her leg and put it where the burn was to replace the tissue that did not survive.
In total, she needed seven surgeries, followed by a tough dose of physical therapy with therapist Courtney Condon — who made a surprise visit to Wednesday’s game to support Kat.
But whatever it took to get back on the field, she was going to do.
Absolutely nobody can question Marchesseault’s heart, grit and determination. But even she was surprised with how quickly her recovery has come.
“No, I couldn’t have expected this,” she said. “I mean, I went from my first night in the hospital and them telling me they almost had to amputate my leg, to now, three weeks out of the hospital and back playing the sport I love. So it’s just been kind of incredible.”
Added Mom: “At times, we didn’t know if she would ever get back on the field, let alone this quickly. We were at Shriners last week, and everyone there was like this is far from the norm. She’s just showed pure determination to get back to where she wants to be.”
LOVE OF SOCCER
Marchesseault committed to play soccer at Northeastern when she was just 15 years old.
She’s a three-sport athlete at Brooks (soccer, basketball, lacrosse), but soccer will always be No. 1. Last year as a sophomore, she scored 7 goals and was named an Eagle-Tribune All-Star. Over the summer, she helped her club team, NEFC, win the National Cup in Colorado.
That’s a lot of soccer history Marchesseault wasn’t ready to give up on.
“It just shows her perseverance as not only an athlete, but it shows her unbelievable character,” said Brooks coach Kerry Baldwin.
It’s only natural to have negative thoughts and reactions after going through such an experience. And, of course, some days were worse than others for Marchesseault.
But she never lost sight of her drive.
“Katherine has just been incredibly positive and just has been looking for the silver linings through all of it,” said Margaret.
It’s why she’s been able to make such a remarkably fast recovery.
And as for scoring two goals in her return? Well, that’s just one of the many reasons why sports can be the absolute best sometimes.
“Just being out here playing the sport I love just makes me feel better,” said Marchesseault. “Even though I’m not fully recovered, it just makes me feel completely normal again.”
Understandably, North Andover’s Katherine Marchesseault was very grateful for the top-notch care she received during her 30-day stay at Shriners Hospital following a severe car accident. To help show her thanks, she has started “Katherine’s Wish-list” to help collect and donate items to other patients who find themselves needing care.
“Most of the time when accidents happen, people are spending a lot of time at the hospital without basic household items we take for granted,” said Margaret Marchesseault, Kat’s mother.
Hospitals like Shriners try to provide all they can, but there is always room for more.
So, Katherine is accepting any donations of items listed below to give to Shriners. Donations can be dropped off at either North Andover Fire Station by Monday, Dec. 2.
Headbands, Hair Ties, Hair Brushes, Scrunchies
Nail Polish + Nail Files
Travel Size Toiletries
Chapsticks- Regular + Flavored
Baby Toys, Bibs, Blankets
Crayons + Coloring Books
Playing Cards/Card Games
Cold Weather Accessories, Baseball Caps
Gift Cards (Walmart, Amazon, Target, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Visa, etc)
K-cups for Nurses Station
Battery Operated Fans (small ones you can clip on bed)
Doctor Play Kits
Whole Foods gift cards
Uber Eats gift cards
“Just being out here playing the sport I love just makes me feel better. Even though I’m not fully recovered, it just makes me feel completely normal again.”
North Andover’s Kat Marchesseault