In his 1838 poem “A Psalm of Life,” a young Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about summoning courage from adversity.


Let us, then, be up and doing,


With a heart for any fate;


Still achieving, still pursuing,


Learn to labor and to wait.


Chloe Stiles, despite suffering excruciating physical pain after a zip line accident last summer and the trauma of a recent leg amputation, is determined to continue making her own footprints on the world.


The resolute former Oregon women’s basketball player has endured a dozen surgeries since her life-changing fall last July, which left her with a dislocated foot and ankle and two shattered heel bones.


Stiles was originally scheduled for three weeks of in-patient care following the April 27 amputation of her left leg below the knee. Instead, she was released after only five days in the hospital and is recovering at home in California under the watchful eye of her mother, Megan Dana.


The 26-year-old is looking forward to the next step in her new normal — being fitted for a prosthetic when the staples are removed from her leg and the swelling subsides.


“Now I can buy myself a wakeboard and play basketball again and go on runs with my dog,” Stiles said during a recent conversation with The Register-Guard. “I'm just trying to see the positive sides of it, trying to tell myself the good stuff. …


“It could be a lot worse. A lot of other people have it a lot worse.”


’Best thing that's ever happened to me’


Stiles grew up in a baseball family. Her father, Dean, played at Oregon and was also the Ducks’ pitching coach under George Horton. Her older brother, Taylor, began his collegiate career at Oregon State. Her younger brother, Cooper, was a third-generation Oregon player, a tradition started by his grandfather, Everett, in the 1950s.


“Athletic family,” Stiles said. “I played baseball most my life, until they made me play softball.


“But basketball was always my game.”


After graduating from Sheldon High in 2011, Stiles passed on an opportunity to play basketball at Lane Community College and attended Oregon on an academic scholarship.


Paul Westhead first knew Stiles as “Cookie Girl.” While attending a holiday party at Horton’s house — Stiles had helped decorate the confections — Dean mentioned to the then-Oregon women’s coach that his daughter had played basketball in high school.


The 2012-13 Ducks’ roster was already ravaged by a string of injuries when Westhead learned that Amanda Delgado had torn an ACL. In desperate need of extra bodies, he invited Stiles to try out as a walk-on.


“It was the best thing that's ever happened to me,” Stiles said.


Stiles, at least for a few awkward moments, was the victim of mistaken identity. When the Oregon coaches showed up to the gym for the workout, there was a mystery blonde knocking down jumpers, but it wasn’t her.


Katie Gruys, a member of the track and field program, happened to be on the floor shooting and didn’t notice Westhead and his assistants come in.


“They thought I was Chloe,” Gruys, now an assistant basketball coach at Southern Utah, recalled. “So they were kind of evaluating me thinking I was Chloe coming here to try out.


“And then Chloe shows up in the gym, and they were like, ‘Wait, you're not Chloe. Then who are you?’”


Gruys explained that she came to Oregon to be a part of “Track Town, USA” but was missing basketball. Westhead decided to put her through the paces with Stiles.


“And we couldn't miss. I mean, we were just juiced,” said Gruys, who also excelled in basketball and softball during her prep career in Minnesota. “We were obviously doing a bunch of different drills and we just didn’t miss. And then after that, they basically said, ‘Sign on the dotted line.’”


Gruys was cleared immediately to accompany the Ducks on their road trip to Illinois. Stiles’ paperwork took too long to be processed by the compliance office for her to travel with the team, but once declared eligible Westhead had her make a solo trek to the Midwest.


Stiles’ 14-hour journey included a canceled flight and a 90-mile drive from Peoria to Champaign, Ill. That memorable December night she scored eight points in nine minutes; Gruys also saw action in the Ducks’ 80-62 loss.


“They’re two nice, delightful kids,” Westhead said of the addition of the walk-on duo. “I’m not saying they’ll come in and solve all our issues, but they’ll be helpful. I’m glad we have them.”


Westhead told Stiles and Gruys that, if nothing else, they had realized the dream of playing Division I basketball and would be “best friends” for life.


“It's just awesome what sport does,” Gruys said. “Chloe and I will always have that special bond because we got that opportunity together, and so we just had each other for support.”


Westhead’s depleted team finished 4-27. Oregon parted company with the former NBA and Loyola-Marymount men’s coach after the Ducks’ 16-16 finish in 2013-14.


New coach Kelly Graves dismissed Stiles from the program after a failed drug test in January 2015. She graduated from Oregon with a degree in psychology.


“Even after all that, I still feel connected to the team,” Stiles said. “It was a huge time in my life. Just because it didn't end how I would have necessarily chosen it to doesn’t mean I don't love the team. I still talk to all the girls and watch all the games and keep in contact with a couple of the coaches.”


‘A lot tougher than any of us’


After college, Stiles worked with autistic kids and in early education with pre-kindergarten students. She was working a youth camp at an adventure park in California when, despite being a natural on the ropes courses, her life dramatically veered off course.


While helping a girl who was experiencing anxiety about doing the zip line, Stiles fell off the tower, which was about a 15-foot drop.


“It was just kind of a freak accident,” Stiles said. “Me and a couple of coworkers were just standing there trying to encourage her. I was holding on to a rope, kind of leaning into it, and then it adjusted down the ropes course to where it was supposed to go. It gave me a little too much slack, and I just fell right off to the side.”


Stiles’ right foot and ankle were dislocated. Her right heel was in 12 pieces. Her left heel was in eight pieces.


“I got the initial call during a game. I was in the dugout and didn’t have very many details,” said Dean, who lives in Arizona and is a developmental coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. “You always think the worst and hope for the best. We’ve tried to stay positive the whole time.”


Once Stiles arrived at the hospital, she developed compartment syndrome — excessive pressure building up inside an enclosed space — in one foot and was rushed into surgery.


“The first thing I honestly thought was, ‘I’m not going home tonight,’” Stiles said.


About 15 minutes after the first surgery, Stiles’ developed compartment syndrome in her other foot and underwent another emergency procedure.


“So that's kind of when I knew it was really serious and that's when the pain started to get pretty bad,” she said. “It was just really weird that this ended up happening. I was doing really well.”


Stiles spent 15 days in the hospital and made countless return trips during her recovery. She underwent 11 surgeries over a five-month period before being given the green light to try walking again.


But as soon as she put weight on her left foot, doctors were quick to discover that she had developed osteomyelitis, a rare and serious bone infection, which required the amputation.


“They realized that there was dead bone in my heel and it’s never going to get better and this was my only option,” Stiles said. “My amputation was my 12th surgery.”


For many patients, including war veterans, limb amputation is emotionally devastating.


Stiles says her mental health is strong as she begins rehabbing the catastrophic injury. She did not want to be hospitalized during the initial stages of the COVID-19 health crisis; scheduling the procedure on her own timeline was important.


“Eventually, I just called my doctor and said I'm ready when you're ready,” Stiles said. “I think that little bit of time, and me getting to be the one who said, ‘OK, I'm ready,’ helped a little bit. And then, honestly, not to toot my own horn or anything, but that's just my personality. It is what it is. I can't go back.


“So I might as well be as happy as I can and get going with my life and just get ready for a prosthetic and be as strong as I can.”


Those who know Stiles best say they are not surprised by her positive outlook.


“This is kind of an answer that she wasn’t necessarily looking for, but now that she knows what has to happen and how to conquer it, I mean, Chloe’s work ethic is something I’ve always admired about her,” Gruys said. “She’s always had that walk-on mentality that nothing is guaranteed. You do all these long days of practices and training just for the love of the game. …


“When I heard about all this I had no doubt that she would attack this challenge in her life head-on and be a hundred times stronger than she was before. This is just another part of her story.”


Dana has been taking care of Stiles throughout the nine-month nightmare. During a Zoom with a Portland television reporter she noted that when her daughter was 18-months-old Stiles’ attitude was: “I do it myself.”


Twelve days after the amputation, Stiles was driving her dad to Wal-Mart and navigating the box store on a scooter.


There is little doubt she’ll be walking again soon.


“It’s the way she was raised,” Dean said. “Because of the Duck situation, she was around athletics all her life. She understands how to battle. She’s probably a lot tougher than any of us.”


‘Always been a badass’


Stiles knew her family and closest friends would help her get through this ordeal.


And then, to her astonishment, her phone started blowing up with notifications from outside the inner circle.


Taylor Miles, a childhood friend, organized a GoFundMe on behalf of Stiles (tinyurl.com/ybv6ngnz) to help offset her bills and expenses during the recovery.


Originally, the fundraiser goal was set at $10,000. As of May 16, $13,674 had been raised with donations from well-known teammates like Lexi Bando and significant anonymous contributions.


“It’s insane,” Stiles said. “I had no idea that it would blow up like this and I would have so much support.”


After news of Stiles’ story spread on social media, Dana made an hourlong video with over 100 Ducks providing messages of support.


The list of famous faces suddenly cheering the former walk-on on included Sabrina Ionescu and Marcus Mariota.


“There’s a ton of people supporting me that have my back saying, ‘Go Ducks!’” Stiles said. “I think both (the fundraiser and the video) combined just like shot my spirits up a little bit because it did prove that I have a ton of support, and this should lead to pretty cool opportunities.”


Gruys envisions Stiles appearing in front of teams like hers as a motivational speaker.


“Excuse my language, but she has always been a badass,” Gruys said. “This is only going to make her tougher and stronger. I see her down the road helping others go through tough times by telling her story.”


Graves, who also made an appearance in the get-well video, is happy to have Stiles back in the “Once a Duck, always a Duck” mindset.


The coach who has transformed Oregon women’s basketball into a national power would like to have Stiles come to a game next season in California or Eugene.


“I’ve told her I'm going to tell her story to the team as soon as we're back and together. We will talk about how she's an inspiration for all of us,” Graves said. “She's always been an upbeat person. The honest truth is that I kind of lost touch a little bit with her. We were never that close, and she only played for me half the season.


“Through this we've had a chance to reconnect. I’m grateful for that, quite frankly. I’m glad she identifies as part of our program.”


Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at rthorburn@registerguard.com or 541-338-2330, and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn and Instagram @rg_ducksports. Want more stories like this? Subscribe to get unlimited access and support local journalism.