COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. - Competitions can be so fierce someone might say they would give their left arm to win. An unfortunate accident almost made that saying come to life for a Colorado Springs barista.
"I had a bit of an accident while roasting my coffee for a competition that I was supposed to be in," said Eliza Lovett, a barista and roaster for Story Coffee Company in downtown Colorado Springs.
It was 10 days before the U.S. Barista Championship in Seattle, when Lovett was roasting her beans to use in the competition.
"The cooling tray has an arm that sweeps the beans around, so it makes it easy to look for defects. You'll occasionally reach your hand in there and grab one out, and that's exactly what I was doing, I was trying to be very meticulous of this coffee because I was using it in this competition," said Lovett. "I had a medical bracelet that got caught on one of those arms and it made a few rotations and that's how the injury happened."
It is much worse than it sounds.
"It sort of just looks like a 'Frankenarm,'" said Lovett. "Broke both bones in my forearm and severed all of the tendons on the top of my arm. Ripped a lot of that muscle. Had my radial and median nerve still intact, which is awesome, and arteries still intact. "Most of it, severed."
She said she didn't feel pain, only pressure. Her arm was put in a tourniquet and she was rushed to the hospital.
"There was, sort of, talk amongst the trauma team of, 'do we take the tourniquet off or do we just airlift her up to Denver?" said Lovett. "They took it off and blood started flowing back into my arm. I started really feeling it because blood was rushing back in, the nerves were all starting to feel things again and I said some really not nice things. All of a sudden, my hand went from white to pink, and he was like, 'splint her, take her to the O.R.'"
After a handful of surgeries, her recovery is even more miraculous because of what her friends are doing to help.
"(My friend) Elizabeth was like, I know that Eliza has lots of flowers and people visiting her at the hospital, I want to do something that will actually mean something to her and help in the long term," said Lovett.
"I'm trying to bring in the money. I'm trying to bring in the money," said volunteer Barista Eric Nicol.
Nicol is part owner of Loyal Coffee, also in downtown Colorado Springs, but on Thursday he was volunteering his time at a competing coffee roaster.
"When it was first brought to me, my first response was, 'F' yeah," said Nicol, who didn't censor himself. "I definitely was like, 'absolutely, I would love to do that.'"
He's working for free, so Lovett doesn't miss a paycheck.
"I'm not going to have any lost wages because they're volunteering their time and I'm receiving all of the money and all of the tips that they make those days. It's like really, really beautiful. Thank you," said a teary-eyed Lovett.
She can concentrate on healing for almost two months. Visiting baristas have her shifts covered through the end of June.
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