Contributed by Matthew Robertson, Reintegration Specialist
At twelve, I went on my first hunting trip with my adoptive family. It was a great experience in nature until Ryan set his shotgun on the truck tailgate and BANG!
There I was; falling backwards into the ditch behind me grabbing my thigh in agony as blood soaked my coveralls. Through the deafening ring of the shot and the immediate confusion I heard screaming, “What happened!?” Seconds felt like hours. With enough adrenaline, I ran to the truck. My adoptive-father and Shawn, who was also shot, got in and we sped off. I was going unconscious. Shawn knifed my coveralls open. He saw major blood loss and cut off circulation with his hands. At the hospital he courageously picked me up, hobbling into the ER saying, “treat him first!”
After lying in the hospital for hours pushing the pain medication button countless times, the pain was still severe. When it was time to go home, I was panicking over what felt like unrelenting cramps that tore muscle. My leg was stiff and it was a nightmare.
At home all I did was lie in bed and take meds. I only got up to eat, clean the wound and use the bathroom. I was immediately depressed. I started as a Forward in basketball and we wanted to fulfill our dream of going to State playoffs; that dream died.
The next morning was the worst experience of all. My adoptive-mother told me, “You’ve gotta move your leg.” I could barely move. “I can’t!”
She pushed my leg toward my chest and pulled out relentlessly. I was screaming to get her to stop to no avail. After minutes of terror, I realized I could move my leg some. I was determined that my leg WOULDN’T stiffen up again. I got out of bed and thought of every painful step as one toward recovery; becoming myself again.
After one week, I begged coach to let me practice. He said when I could hop, I could start. I started putting weight on my leg, which seemed impossible. I broke down, and got angry; “Why did this happen to me!?” Every fall I rose from more determined. I hobbled when I ran and could jump awkwardly. Coach made me practice against our biggest player and told me that to strengthen myself, I had to push beyond my doubts and work through the pain. He was right. Sectionals came and I felt ready although not completely healed. Coach finally put me in. Within seconds the opposing team in-bounded the ball, which I intercepted. A fight for the ball started and two players knocked me over and the pain was back. With teammates and the crowd helping, I got up and made free-throws.
I did it.
Although badly injured, help from family and friends eased recovery. If my adoptive-mom wouldn’t have forced me into stretching my leg, I may have waited weeks to deal with the excruciating pain. I then realized I could get better despite injury. That enabled the ability to say, “This is horrible, but I can change this!” That challenged me; set the goal of getting back on the court. This experience showed me that no matter what impairment anyone may have, there are people who will help you recover, even when it may be painful to do so; they will be there every step of the way.
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At PACE, we want to be here for you whether you are recovering from an injury or living independently with a disability. Don’t forget to check back next week for more thoughts from the staff at PACE!