I remember sitting in the locker room by myself during the 2nd period, crying partly because of the physical pain, but more so because of the emotional pain of once again not being able to play hockey. I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to go down this road again.That Thursday at practice, I decided to give it a shot and skate. About 15 minutes into practice, my coach pulled me aside and said, “you don’t look like you can skate.” I couldn’t, but anything was better than being put back on the “injured reserve”. That Friday I went to get x-rays which revealed a hairline fracture on my patella that would take about 6 weeks to heal. Little did I know, this was only the beginning. After six weeks of rest and rehab, I was finally ready to get back on the ice. Days before I was set to skate, I slipped on a slick surface and hyper flexed my knee, resulting in a new fracture. My knee swelled up roughly 10 times the size of what it should be. After countless prayers, doctors’ appointments and an MRI, the doctors confirmed it was only the kneecap that had re-fractured, and there was no other internal damage. What a relief that was, no surgery! Roughly two months of healing and therapy followed. It felt so good to be back on track. On the first Friday on the second semester, I took off for my 9:30 class. I took one step into the road and slipped on a patch of ice, twisting my leg in an odd position. I fell to the ground and felt my body go into shock. The first thing I did was run my fingers over my kneecap, where I could feel it clearly split into two pieces. I tried calling everyone in my contacts before my roommate Evan picked up his phone. He hurried over to my location in the middle of 14th street to bring me to the ER. My kneecap was completely separated in half. We scheduled surgery for the following Monday.
I sat in silence for most of the days following. I was in shock. Three times? Clearly God had been trying to tell me something that I was missing.I dropped out of Hope for the semester and moved home. I couldn’t get out of bed for days at a time after the surgery. My parents and two younger brothers can certainly attest when I say I battled with my mental health during this time period. I was nothing more than a lifeless body who sat in bed with my hood up. I couldn’t find an ounce of good in the situation, and I was frustrated with myself and with God. I tried pulling myself out of that abyss of anger and sadness, but nothing worked. I remember receiving a sympathy card from my team. Inside was a personal note and some words of encouragement from every player and coach. I got halfway through and broke down into tears. Everything kind of hit me at once. It was tough to comprehend it all. I cried, prayed, and began to figure it out. They say time heals all, and this proved true in my case. I started smiling again, and I began to really understand my situation. I looked away from the past and towards the future. I would even laugh to myself at times, like, “yo, I really just broke my kneecap 3 times and had to drop out of school… WHAT?!” I began to understand that life is all about how you respond to things.
God’s plan for you is perfect, and it has already been written start to finish. Adversity will find you. You have to respond with a good attitude, that’s all you can do.After the initial shock and interminable sadness began to fade, I decided I would not let this injury rule me. Although I felt helpless for much of the 10 months I battled this, I continued to put all I had into God. He kept gifting me (yes, gifting me) with all these injuries to teach me lessons you just can’t learn anywhere else. Not in the classroom or in the office. These are valuable life lessons I hold close and have built my faith on. I wasn’t sure if I would ever play hockey again, but I was sure that I would come back and be a support system and an outlet of faith for my teammates. Those guys are, and always will be, my family. I am eternally grateful for the support of them, my friends, my girlfriend and especially my family throughout this all- they stood by me at my worst. My close friend Justin Pinto encouraged me to create a bucket list shortly after I first broke my kneecap. Just under 9 months after surgery, on October 5th, 2018, I was able to cross #8 off of that list: Play another Hope hockey game. I came into this season with a greater perspective of what it’s all about, and I want to try to be the best teammate I can be. I still get mad at myself and others on and off the ice, but now, I try to catch myself in the midst of that anger and remind myself why I am back on the ice and who got me there. I didn’t have these kinds of reminders before this all. I am grateful God gave me another chance, and I know I am doing this all solely through Him. Just as Steve mentioned in his reflection, “This is not a pity party. I am not asking for your sympathy. Save it.” I’m not here to tell you how tough my journey was. It could have been so much worse. Battling something like cancer and going through rounds of chemotherapy? That’s bad. Those are the people I look up to. God reveals parts of his plans for us in ambiguous and sometimes painful ways. I don’t want this to sound like I have my faith figured out because that’s not true, but I’m evolving; I’m getting there. The past year of my life has been something beyond comprehension, and I am slowly taking it all in and rejoicing in what I’ve learned. Keep your head up, for He has a much greater plan for you. Let Psalms 37:5 ring through your head. It’s applicable to everyone’s situation in some way, and I have come around to understand that in full. I am beyond thankful for this life, my fragile bones, and a gracious God who loves us so much. I’m excited to see what’s down the road with these new lenses of appreciation God has given me.
Whatever you’re going through will reveal something to you. Be strong and remember why you’re fighting the fight.Life is short. Give thanks. Be intentional. Embrace adversity. Work hard. He gave us life, guys. Your story is written – go live it. —
THE HOPE ATHLETES’ JOURNAL MISSION STATEMENT The mission of the Hope Athletes’ Journal is to provide Hope College student-athletes with a platform to express their challenges and joys in order for coaches, peers, prospective students, and fans to relate to, understand, and appreciate their stories beyond their games. This project, initiated by Stephen Binning ’19, encourages and invites Hope student-athletes to write vulnerable, principled, honest, and respectful stories that ultimately knit our college even closer together. If you or someone you know has a story that could be shared on the Hope Athletes’ Journal, please reach out to Lindsey Engelsman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eva Dean Folkert (email@example.com). If you or someone you know is in need of help, here are some resources both on and off campus: Hope College Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): 616-395-7945 Hope College Campus Ministries: 616-395-7145 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673