DILLON — Paige Paffhausen is thankful to be back home, and she's equally as grateful for the wave of support she received during her extended stay in Salt Lake City.
Last December, a rapidly spreading infection along her C-section incision put Paffhausen's life in jeopardy and required her to take a Life Flight to the University of Utah Hospital.
The former star player for the Montana Western women's basketball team — who was a member of the 2019 championship team — spent the next month undergoing a series of surgeries to remove infected tissue.
Back home in Dillon, her alma mater rallied to support her and donated all gate proceeds from a home game against Providence toward her hospital bills. From there, support continued rolling in from across the state.
"Looking back, I hope that's one thing I can pay forward," Paffhausen said. "Give that support to someone else who needs it down the road. And I can't express how much that means to me and my family. We got so much support not only from Dillon, but the community of Montana."
Paffhausen, who now works as a PE teacher at Beaverhead County High School, underwent extensive physical therapy as she recovered from her surgeries.
Her drive to excel made her a top player for Western and she was the Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year following the 2020-21 season.
That same mindset carried over into her recovery.
"I'm just a competitive person," she said. "My sisters (Ashley and Shelby) are competitive so they really pushed me to get up and start walking and to challenge myself.
"It was really helpful and the support was amazing."
And perhaps the single biggest motivation as she worked toward being able to return home? Being with her daughter, Parker.
"There was a chunk of time where we got to have her in the hospital for about five days," Paffhausen said. "That was when I turned it on and said, 'I'm getting the heck out of here and I'm ready to leave.' Seeing Parker and having her there was a huge drive for me."