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Being “Blessed” with an Injury

During our physical therapy sessions at OPTI, we often joke with patients about celebrating their “anniversary” of their injury or surgery by treating themselves to their favorite ice cream or treat at their one month mark, one year mark, etc.!  Although these comments are made in a sarcastic tone, there is truly something to be celebrated when you have had to overcome injury!  

I recently “celebrated” my anniversary of tearing my first ACL (I tore my right one in 1996 and I unfortunately tore my left ACL in 2006). “Celebrated” is not really a word you would think of using when speaking about an injury. But I must say, December 4th, 1996 was one of THE BEST days of my life (however, my mom would definitely disagree with this!). This was the day that I tore my ACL during basketball practice my senior year in high school, just two days before our first game. At the time, I was devastated. 6-9 months of sitting on the sideline was not a happy thought.  But, because of my ACL tear, I have been blessed in many ways.

At the time of my injury, I was in the midst of trying to figure out where I wanted to go to college and play soccer.  Would anyone even want me on their team after this injury?   When I got home from the emergency room the night of my injury, I received a phone call from the Creighton University soccer coach…..nice timing right?   He asked me how my day went and I told him I got hurt in basketball practice. I explained to him that I had just gotten home from the ER and they were not sure exactly what happened to my knee yet. I knew something serious happened though when I twisted my knee and felt a pop on that basketball court that afternoon. Although I still had a couple more recruiting visits to take, I had just had an emotional (and painful) afternoon and I made a rash decision…I verbally committed to play soccer at Creighton University the following fall. Yep, I had just torn my ACL, was an emotional mess, and decided to make my college decision that night. Oh dear, what was I thinking??? The next day, my orthopedic surgeon told me the news. ACL, meniscus, and MCL tear…

So moving on, my high school basketball season was about to commence and I would have been the starting point guard. Our team was one of the top ranked teams in the pre-season ratings and was runner up at the State tournament the year prior. I was going to miss my senior year of high school soccer as well and we were again a favorite for winning the State Championship as we were the returning State Champs from the year before. What was I going to do without basketball and soccer? Would I ever be able to play at the level I was playing before my injury again? So many concerns in my head along with a heavy sadness that I was not going to be able to compete for my school one last time…

So the basketball and soccer seasons progressed and I sat on the sidelines, most of the time feeling sorry for myself and craving to play the sports that defined me as a person in that time of my life. I often tell my patients that the time that they have on the sideline can be so valuable not only when they return to playing but useful in life in general. I learned a lot about the game of basketball and soccer while sitting there. I learned a lot about myself too. Listening to the coach’s comments, seeing how my teammates were moving on the court or field, seeing how my teammates were reacting to the coach’s instructions, and observing the players on my team that put in the hours of practice but never saw a minute in a game, I absorbed it all. I was learning how to deal with adversity but I have to admit, I was still feeling sorry for myself, useless to my team, almost disconnected because I was not contributing. I found these feelings to be motivating, however, and was able to use my frustration as a tool to help me focus on my rehab and try to get back to where I was before my injury.

To make a long, sad, drawn out story short, I got through it! AND, I am a better person because of it. That day back in 1996 was defining for me.

Moving onto college, I had to start thinking about what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I had always had my heart set on being a pediatrician or an orthopedic surgeon. I was still going that direction when I started my studies in college. But, having to go through months of physical therapy with my ACL reconstruction surgery opened up another career option for me…hmmmm, maybe I should look into going to PT school?

I decided to apply for PT school at Creighton University, where I was attending undergrad. I got an interview! I showed up on March 5th, 2000 to the Creighton University Boyne Building expecting to go through a tedious interviewing process but little did I know that I would be meeting my future husband that day! Brent Cordery was in his first year of PT school at Creighton at the time.  Due to his wonderful, outgoing personality, he was helping out at the interviews, hanging out in the room where the candidates waited for their name to be called, trying to keep everyone from freaking out. I spoke briefly with Brent and played some nerf pick up basketball with him in my formal interview attire. Ok, again, to keep a long, sappy, wonderful love story short, we got married 5 years later on March 5th, 2005…Oh, and I have to mention that we still have a nerf basketball hoop hanging in our clinic today!

Now I am a physical therapist. A physical therapist that gets to treat people that are trying to overcome injury and pain. I get what they are going through. I have been there. I have experienced the physical and mental pain that come with injury. And, I am fortunate in a strange sense to have had that experience. I get to see people progress, have decreasing pain levels, return to doing the things that they love. I am lucky.

OK, so let’s recap here…I tear my ACL…I make a rash decision the night I tore my ACL to play soccer at Creighton University…I decide to go to PT school at Creighton…I meet my husband…and now I have a job I LOVE where I get to help others with their injuries! Hmmm….how did this all start again? December 4th, 1996- the day I tore my ACL…what a blessing!

Katie Cordery, PT