One of the low points in my life happened on an outdoor basketball court in Celebration, FL while playing in an all women’s pickup game.
All I remember is breaking free and catching a beautiful pass under the basket and going up for a reverse layup. A move I had done a thousand times. BUT this one instance, I happened to come down awkwardly and I immediately felt everything in my left knee pop. I knew it was bad.
It’s crazy to think back and knowing how accident prone and relentless I was on the athletic fields, that I had never suffered a major setback. I never missed a game in college, which was a miraculous feat that I thank my trainers for implicitly. There were numerous twisted ankles, jammed fingers, concussions and more raspberries than you could count, but none that ever took me out.
So to say that this setback rocked my world is an understatement. I knew if I ever wanted to snowboard or hike again, surgery was my only option. I don’t remember much of that first week of recovery at my parents house but I did catch up on some much needed sleep.
After moving to my home couch, I dove into the Harry Pottery book series to kill a lot of time. I also started an aggressive rehab schedule three times per week at 6am for an hour. For a night owl, the 5:15am wake up just about killed me much less having to learn to walk again. It still amazes me to this day how big time athletes recover so quickly, as I struggled so much and it reinforces that everyone’s bodies are unique. I still remember a high school football player and I started rehab the same day, had the same surgeon, and the same multi-level injury, BUT he graduated from our own “hell” in 2 months with 90% range of motion while I endured 6 months of setbacks. This was that point in life that I learned to never compare your journey to anyone else. Live your own path.
So I struggled to turn the pedal over on a bike for months and hated the excruciating pain of being stretched out on the massage table at the end of every session BUT I loved eventually being able to walk up steps without holding on, jogging down the hallway at 50% and hearing those words “your rehab is complete”.
I am very fortunate my scar is minimal. While I have never gained back full range of motion on my left side and still can’t feel the inner portion of my kneecap, BUT I have conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Everest Base Camp at all odds and know that I haven’t even scratched the surface on my physical and emotional limits.
UPDATE: it’s funny how things come full circle… years after recovering, I was working the Warrior Games at Disney with wounded vets. They inspired us all by playing a softball game in the stadium and afterwards we hosted a party on the field. I caught up with a young man who had been in a horrific local boating accident. He just happened to be the son of my knee surgeon AND he was starting to train to summit Kili. We kept in touch, so I got the privilege of helping him achieve his dream. And for closure and my own unexpected “magical moment”, I got to publicly thank his dad for mending my broken knee and leading me to conquer my own mountains.