I replay it in my mind frequently. I can still hear it. It was Friday, September 13, 2019. What felt like a normal (Friday the 13th) afternoon, quickly turned into a trip to the hospital and a long road to recovery.
For the past six years, my Friday nights in the fall are consumed by football, and I enjoy everything about it. That evening however, I did not enjoy very much about it. That afternoon, Oakdale High School hosted a trio of games that kicked off at 3 p.m.
By 3:10 p.m. my night of coverage had come to an abrupt end.
I walked into The Corral and made my normal rounds of greeting folks and getting ready for kickoff. Two plays into the game, I was taking photos on the sidelines (again, as I have for six years) but could not escape in time from the speedy ball carrier who was shoved out of bounds and I suffered a broken leg.
Upon contact I remember yelling “It’s Broke! It’s Broke!” My tibia and fibula had broken in multiple places. Full disclosure it was Mini Mustang Night and so I apologize to the youngsters in attendance that heard the inappropriate language that may have followed upon the shock. I am very thankful to have this accident happen at a home game. The Oakdale High School football training and medical staff were quick to help me and even called my wife all while calming me down and assisting until the EMT’s showed up.
I was transferred to Kaiser Permanente in Modesto where I spent the next four days. Upon my arrival my wife and then general manager were there to greet me. The next day I spent over six hours in surgery to repair my right leg. The original plan for surgery was to place a rod in my leg but when the surgeon team opened up my leg they noticed how bad the breaks really were. They decided to place a plate in it instead and had eight screws, and 60-plus staples, which equaled a longer timetable for recovery.
During the last nine months I have been through intense physical therapy; used a wheelchair, shower chair, walker, cane and walking boots. Fast forward nine months and I am still on the path of recovery. I have shed the chairs, walker, cane and boots but am still learning the regular walking pattern. Due to COVID-19 my recovery process has hit a major roadblock. I cannot go into the hospital for regular appointments, follow-ups with my medical team, or even have physical therapy. Since March I have taken things into my own hands. Stretching and aquatics exercise each day have helped my process. However, I am not back to my normal self. I walk with a limp and my knee does not have its normal range of motion. The hope is that I do not need a follow-up surgery to help repair my knee and leg.
I want to thank everyone who came to visit, sent their love via text or social media during this adventure. The gifts, cards, well wishes, dinners and more have helped more than you will ever know. My incredible wife stood by me the whole time and somehow managed to not only take care of me, but also took care of our toddler son and still worked her job. She was and continues to be my rock during recovery. My sister and brother-in-law were a huge part of my recovery as well. They took me in straight out of the hospital and allowed me to heal up at their house for the first few months of my recovery. They built me ramps for my wheelchair and made their house handicapped accessible for me. I will never forget the hard work and sacrifice they did for me. My dad took me to my appointments and physical therapy sessions the last few months; which was very much appreciated and allowed us to spend much needed time together. I look forward to seeing everyone again and returning to covering not just football but all Oakdale High School and community sports.
Dennis Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.