Romeoville’s Angelica Osusky a study in perseverance
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org February 14, 2013 10:53PM
Romeoville's Angelica Osusky (10) drives to the basket around Plainfield East's Nina Maggio. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 16, 2013 6:19AM
Sometimes Angelica Osusky has trouble fixing her hair and occasionally texting, and typing can be a problem. She used to have a hard time tying her shoes, but she doesn’t run into any issues dribbling a basketball for the girls varsity basketball team at Romeoville High School.
At the end of this month or sometime in early March, Osusky is going to make her college decision. She already has an offer from the University of St. Francis to play basketball under first-year coach and ex-Joliet Catholic star Samantha Quigley. But Osusky said she is mulling over other offers as well.
She is also putting up solid numbers for Romeoville.
The 17-year-old is shooting 32 percent from three-point range, is a 70 percent free-throw shooter, averages just over two steals a game and is tied as the second-leading scorer with 11 points per game.
And Friday night Osusky will try and keep the Spartans’ playoff hopes alive. Romoeville will play Plainfield East at 7:30 in a Class 4A regional final at Lemont High School.
This may seem like your basic story of a local girl who is going on to bigger and better things, but Osusky has come a long way after what happened to her 10 years ago this summer.
Back in August 2003, Osusky, her then-20-year-old sister and some other children from the neighborhood were invited to their neighbor’s house in Romeoville to look at his exotic pets. The neighbor had some reptiles and a pit bull.
But the neighbor hadn’t put the pit bull in a safe spot and when the girls saw a jar of bugs, the Osusky sisters and the other children screamed. That set the dog off. The pit bull jumped onto Osusky, since she was standing closest to it, and bit off her left thumb.
Then the dog went for neck and took out a chunk the size of half of an apple near her jugular vein.
“I remember going over to my neighbor’s house, and then (after the bite) I went into shock,” Osusky said. “I remember my sister rushing me up the stairs and running back to my mom.”
Osusky’s sister took the children and fled to her parent’s home where Maura Osusky, the girls’ mother, called 911.
The dog and Angelica Osusky were taken to Edward Hospital in Naperville, where the dog was put down and doctors operated on the dog’s stomach to retrieve the thumb.
But after efforts at Edward were futile in reattaching the thumb, Osusky was airlifted to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Doctors at Children’s also were unable to reattach the thumb. James Osusky said doctors were willing to transplant Angelica’s big toe onto her left hand, but the family decided against it.
“Then the camera crews all came out in front of our house,” James Osusky said.
The story seemed to blow up from there.
“There was a big buzz for a couple of months and then it went away,” James Osusky said.
But all Angelica Osusky wanted was to be normal and not have people focus on her left hand. She was in gymnastics at the time of the injury and took the sport as far as she could go.
She picked up basketball around the sixth grade and had to work hard on maintaining ball control; and dribbling was a bit difficult.
And right after the injury, Osusky had to relearn how to do things like tie her shoes and pick up objects — actions that many people take for granted. Osusky said she realized how much thumbs are used in everyday activities and how important the digit is to the hand.
But with that realization also came some sadness.
“I remember telling my mom I just wanted to be normal, and ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’ ” Osusky said. “I had to try and not let it affect me.
“But sometimes I still feel like it does limit me a little. I tell myself it makes me different.”
Same old Angelica
A decade later, Angelica Osusky works part time at McDonald’s, drives a decent car and is a starter for the Spartans. She helped lead the team to a 14-0 record in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
“They used to say she is handicapped, but she’s not and she’s just a normal kid,” James Osusky said. “She just kept going and never looked back.”
When she started playing basketball at Romeoville as a freshman, her coaches couldn’t believe she didn’t have a left thumb, since she is a left-handed shooter.
And people don’t really take notice of the scar on her neck, either. Osusky’s long hair covers that up.
“Not a lot of people notice (not having a thumb), and it’s kind of shocking that they don’t,” Osusky said. “One of my coaches at first was super shocked, but other players (from other teams) didn’t say anything.”
Osusky doesn’t want, or get, any leeway from anybody. She laughs when people say, “Oh, it’s just a thumb that you lost,” because Osusky knows how much people use their thumbs for everyday tasks.
Even though she gave up gymnastics long after the accident, Osusky didn’t want to limit herself in what sports she tried.
Up until her junior year, Osusky also played volleyball at Romeoville. But she decided to quit so she could focus more on her basketball future, which she will happily determine soon.
The neighbor who used to live next door moved away a year ago. Osusky said her parents were still on speaking terms with the neighbor, but she never really spoke to him much after the incident.
“They got over it, and we got over it,” she said.
Osusky has obviously moved on with her life, but there are still some things that upset her and make her understandably weary.
“I’m OK with certain kinds of dogs and I have a cat so I’m fine with animals,” Osusky said. “But pit bulls or big dogs — vicious dogs — scare me. I’m afraid to be around pit bulls.”