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The Journey

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“Coach Rich, Coach Rich, something’s wrong! My knee keeps popping in and out of place!”

Little did I know, I would soon be on my way to Akron for surgery. Plus, for the next six months, I would have to work the hardest that I have in my entire life. This experience taught me the meaning of the word perseverance and the meaning of the phrase, “Never give up!”

It all began at an AAU tournament in Lodi, Ohio. I played for the Penn-Ohio Blue Storm, and for the first time, I was in the starting line-up for my team. The sounds in the gym rang sweetly to my ears, being that I was so content just to hear basketballs bouncing up and down. I could smell the must of the court and taste the Gatorade from the colorless, half-filled bottle in my hand. As I stretched out, I watched the other games going back and forth. I felt as if I was at home.

At last it was time for my team to take the court. We began to play against a team from Independence, Ohio. The first time I got the ball on the right elbow, I made one quick step-by move to the right. All of a sudden, my leg twisted. I had never felt a feeling like this before. It felt as if my shin stayed straight and my knee moved toward the side of my leg. Surprisingly, I fell down to the floor in a minimal amount of pain. My AAU coach told me to sit down on the bench, and make sure that I was okay. This was the last thing I wanted to hear, because as passionate as I am about basketball, I hate sitting on the bench. By the beginning of the second half, I went back in the game. I was anxious and eager to get back in. About thirty seconds into the second half, I jumped up for a high rebound, came down, and felt a pop. I instantly knew something was wrong. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my coach talking to my dad. He had instructed my dad to take me back home for fear that I had damaged my knee. This angered me the most out of everything. I walked off the court in anxiety and sorrow. It was a long ride home, and the days that followed had become difficult for me to walk. Therefore, the next week I went to see Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones, my orthopedic surgeon, is a tall man in his mid-forties. He is a very kind and understanding person. I proceeded to tell him what had happened in the AAU tournament. He listened to my story intently. Since I had seen Dr. Jones before for other injuries, I had the utmost confidence that he would identify what was wrong. After I told him what had occurred, he prescribed an MRI of my leg. Even though the results came back about a week later, it seemed as though I waited for months. I was very distressed when he called, so he calmly explained to me that I had torn my anterior crucial ligament (ACL) in my knee. At that moment my heart was broken, and I turned a very pale color. The first question I asked myself was, “Why me?”. Dr. Jones furthermore said that I would have to have surgery to repair the torn ACL. He explained to my mom and I that he would remove my torn ACL as the first part of the surgery, and the second stage of the surgery would be to take two hamstring muscles from my leg and form my new ACL. The surgery was scheduled at Akron Children’s Hospital for May 18th, which was about two weeks after I had gotten my MRI results back.

On May 18th, at Akron Children’s Hospital, the operating room was freezing cold. It had a clean smell to it, and I heard the doctors talking about the surgery itself. This was nothing new for me since I previously have had eleven surgeries at this hospital. I actually felt almost at home, plus I was confident that Dr. Jones would do a fine job. The surgery went along very smoothly until one of the five screws that was to be inserted into my knee got stuck in part of my patellar bone. As a result, the surgery took an additional half-hour just to get the screw back out. However in the end, the operation was successful despite the screw malfunction.

After the surgery, Dr. Jones pointed out to my parents that I had to perform six months of physical therapy in order to recuperate from the ACL repair surgery. I knew just which physical therapist to go to, Dr. Bruce Weston. I had gone to Bruce for previous knee problems. Bruce is a nice man in his mid-fifties, who is short, well-built, and strong. Bruce was no doubt one of the most motivated people throughout my whole process. He helped me get through each session of therapy, while giving me motivation along the path of recovery. I completed three months of grueling, painful therapy. Not only had I made my way twice a week to Bruce’s office, but I performed the therapy at home on my own as well. Bruce’s assistant, Lisa Fast, was also very supportive. Lisa is a strong woman in her mid-forties, whose sense of humor helped me get through some days. The therapy room was my second home during the summer. I enjoyed every person, from the physical therapists to the patients. Bruce’s office was a warm quiet place, where sadly, I often felt pain in my leg. Lisa and Bruce provided constant direction on the exercises that I had to execute. At times I felt like I heard them in my sleep.

At the four month mark, I was able to jog. I never thought that I would be so excited to run in my life. However, there was one catch. Dr. Jones insisted on a custom made brace to wear on my knee for all sporting activities, and to further add to my dilemma, the cost of the brace was going to be 1,500 dollars. My mom’s goal was to get the insurance to cover the brace, but the insurance would not stand for it. After one whole month of phone calls and letters from my mom and Dr. Jones, the insurance finally decided to pay for the brace in full. Even to this day, I could not describe how ecstatic my mom and I were.


My goal, after watching my high school team play all summer, was to play opening night of the 2009-2010 season. With this in mind, I jogged, lifted, and practiced every day as much as I was permitted. I was a month behind on my therapy because of the delay of the brace, but I was cleared to play a week before the opening night game against Streetsboro. Finally, on opening night, I played all four quarters of the game. The gym was loud as the fans cheered, and I could taste and smell victory. I could feel the basketball and the high-fives from my teammates. Despite my vast amount of excitement, I managed to score ten points and pull down four rebounds. My parents were proud of me and so were my teammates and coaches. I had accomplished my goal from the summer.

After coming back from my ACL tear and ACL repair surgery, I have played a whole season. My leg feels strong and has recovered well. When I think of my experience though, I think of how much perseverance I had. I was able to overcome my ACL tear, surgery, and therapy to play opening night. Throughout those six months, I felt as though my teammates and coaches had lost faith in me. Sometimes I even felt as though I had lost faith in myself too. Overall, I learned to keep the faith, and I learned to truly believe in the phrase, “Never give up!”





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Dr.J said...
May 22 at 8:19 pm
Loved the story. I can relate. I would like to put together a compilation of stories based on ACL injuries and their effects on young girls and women. I want it to be used as a teaching reference for anyone involved in the sports/healthcare continuum and be a bold representation of everything that comes along with the injury. Wondering if you would like to be a part of that and have your story used in that compilation. You or your parents can reach me via the email above with any questions. Than... (more »)
 
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