When one hears the word reconstruction, what does he or she think of? At first I thought of remodeling a house or fixing a building that has been damaged. When I heard my doctor tell me that I am having ACL reconstruction, I think my heart skipped a beat. Just wondering why this happened to me when I was at the top of both of my sports, baseball and hockey, was absolutely mind blowing. The doctor said I was going to have a rough nine months ahead of me. I had to wait till the doctor was free to schedule me for the surgery; then I had the whole rehabilitation process going to physical therapy four times a week, and then coming back to the two sports and relearning how to play them was probably the hardest part of it all.
I tore my ACL at the end of the hockey season of my junior year. Of course my dad and I being hard-heads, I tried playing through the pain. I ended up playing eight games on the torn ACL. I did not go to the doctor and had my knee checked out till the beginning of baseball season. The doctor did a bunch of tests on my knee and could not figure out why my knee was swollen like a water balloon. Finally he put my leg in a forty-five degree angle then pulled, and once again I found myself crying from all the pain that just hit me like running into a brick wall. He scheduled me for an MRI the next day and the results came back I had a torn ACL, bucket tear of the meniscus, torn mcl, and broken tibia. The doctor was booked from other surgeries all the way till April so I scheduled it the day after my prom so I could experience the best dance that I have been to in my life. The wait was a long month of watching my team play without me. The wait was not worth it; I was in so much pain after I did not want to walk again.
Two days after surgery, I had my first physical therapy ever. Barely walking and still afraid that I would blow out my knee again. I was then introduced to my physical therapist, Kelly; she was nice but she made sure that my shirt was drenched in sweat every time I left the building. I felt like I was at boot camp the whole time until I was introduced to my favorite machine, electric stem. This machine literally shocked me, but the shocking felt amazing. I laid on the table what felt like hours but was really only fifteen minutes. I started going four times a week dreading the workout that I was not used to but loving the electro stem at the end of every session. I started feeling no shock from the machine, as they would turn the machine all the way up as Kelly is wondering why I could not feel the shocking sensation. As my knee started to develop back to the amazing knee I had, I was able to do more and more moving. I worked all summer on rehabilitating my knee back to one hundred percent, finally able to start hitting baseballs again but not able to step on the ice yet.
The first time I stepped in the batting cage it looked as if I was lost. Before the knee injury I would step in the cage with no fear holding the bat as if I felt invincible; I felt as if the pitcher could not throw a pitch by me. I would step in the batter’s box, and I was able to hit the ball no matter where it was pitched. After rehabbing my knee, I found myself looking at strikes and swinging almost as if I was blind. Finally starting to have good contact on the ball I started to have my confidence back and I started becoming the former baseball player that I used to be. Now it was time to step back on the ice where I tore my ACL. Almost a year out, and I had no clue how the first skate would be. I took a few strides, and my knee was still holding strong. Scared to stop I felt like the person that played in the movie The Mighty Ducksthat had all the speed in the world but could not stop to save his life. I had a long road ahead of me to become the player that took me years to be in the first place. With all the work that I have already put into my knee, I knew that it was only a matter of time until I was back. Long hours of training took me to where I am now playing hockey for McKendree University. My baseball career did not keep going, but my hockey career became my life. I now had to focus on my future while I still had my childhood dream come true. I still had one of my sports while giving up the other for the education.
Finally coming back to the player that I was taught me that the only way to keep going was not to look back on the past but to look forward on the great achievements that will happen from hard work and the mindset that I was here for a reason. I had to reconstruct my whole life to become who I am now. The doctor had to reconstruct my knee, I had to go through the rehab, and finally figure out how to become someone that I was not anymore. With all the work that I have put in my knee, I learned that I will have to give one hundred percent from here on to keep my life going in the right direction.
By Austin McEwen
I play hockey for McKendree, and I also love writing.