“Kenny, before “the accident”, was my 53 year old fiancé who worked as a chef for 35+ years who, over the last few years, fell in love with not only me, but also the game of golf. Kenny and I met at Lift For Life Academy, LFLA, a charter school in the city. He brought innovation and flavor to meals he served staff and students, while I served as their school counselor. We worked together for three years and then maintained a friendship until we began dating three years ago. In the 12 years that Kenny has worked at LFLA, he never once took a sick day, until the accident. If Kenny wasn’t working at the school, catering a wedding or event, spending time with me – he was on a golf course somewhere.
I will never forget getting that phone call around 1pm on Sunday, October 11th. I was expecting him to tell me he and his brother were done trimming the tree, something they had been working on for a few weeks now. Instead, I heard, “babe, I hurt my leg and they’re taking me to the hospital.” I immediately started panicking and headed down to Barnes St. Louis to meet him. According to Kenny’s brother, Kenny was trimming a very large branch. Instead of it falling straight down to the ground, it began to swing towards the ladder that Kenny was on and he panicked. He jumped off – 15 feet above the ground. I’m pretty sure that he knew instantly that he hurt his right ankle pretty badly, as it was not in the position or place that it should have been. However, he didn’t realize that his other leg was hurt until he attempted to get up. He quickly realized he was more hurt than he thought, leading to the 911 call.
I arrived about 20 minutes before Kenny did and had to wait for what seemed like hours to see him until he was evaluated. When I was finally taken back to the trauma room, he had been taken back for X-Rays and CT Scans. After returning from the scans, I saw firsthand how damaged his right ankle was. It had been dislocated and broke. According to Kenny, he thought he pulled a muscle in his left leg due to the pain, but when in reality, he broke his left femur. We were told that they would need to set his ankle and put his leg in traction all in the ER that evening and then would need surgery the next morning. His ankle was set, twice, that evening and his leg was finally put in traction around 1am.
Surgery was on Monday, October 12th and lasted 7.5 hours. He received some pins and a plate in his right ankle and a titanium rod in his left femur. We were told he would be non-weight bearing on the right ankle, but would be up walking on Tuesday, October 12th and should be home on Wednesday, October 13th. However, that didn’t happen. For seven days, Kenny tried to do what the doctors and physical therapists asked him to do, but it was impossible. The damage and pain to the leg was too much for him to be able to bear all of his weight since he could not put any weight on the right ankle.
On the sixth day, he was finally able to be transferred to a wheelchair, with the help of at least 3 physical therapists and nurses. Eventually, we got the green light to transfer him to The St. Louis Rehab Institute at Barnes St. Peters, where he arrived on Tuesday, October 20th, the ninth day after the accident. We were told his stay there would be dictated by the doctors and his progress in therapy, which he participated in for three hours every day. Kenny was transferring himself from the bed to his wheelchair by the second day he arrived and was standing with assistance just five days later. During his 15 day stay, he quickly became more independent and got stronger! He was going back to his amateur boxing days – having the therapists play Rocky’s theme song while he persevered and pushed himself to the limit in the rehab gym.
On November 3rd, Kenny got his staples and cast removed from his ankle and was released by his surgeon to go home and continue in-home therapy. When he arrived home on Wednesday, November 4th, the 24th day after the accident, he was still unable to walk but could transfer himself, take care of his hygiene needs and pull himself up using his walker.
Within three days of being home, COVID hit our household putting a hold on the start of in-home physical therapy. Kenny worked with an amazing therapist for a few short weeks, before being released on December 1st to begin outpatient therapy. His surgeon felt his wounds were healing nicely, but that the damage to his leg and muscles would take time to heal. This was the same day that he walked using his walker for the first time, 51 days after the accident.
December 8th was the first time meeting his new physical therapist, John Ruesler, DPT, CMPT, Astym. Cert, at Axes Physical Therapy in St. Charles. He began working with John twice a week. Each day I picked him up, he would tell me about the new thing he was able to do. On December 21, he walked out of rehab using his walker instead of the wheelchair, because he was determined to be able to get into his son’s third floor apartment on Christmas morning. He told John and I that he would do it and he did, all 44 steps up and all 44 steps down! It was tough and it hurt, but worth it! Kenny gave it his all, every single day. His determination and grit astound everyone!
Due to COVID, I was working from home throughout his recovery, so I was able to be by his side every step of the way. After every session with John and the other therapists, he was coming out with a new milestone in his recovery. On January 22nd, he began trying to swing a golf club in the kitchen (yes in the kitchen) to see if he could. He lost his balance very quickly and knew he had more work to do as he was determined to make it back out on the course soon so he was ready to rejoin the Amateur Players Tour.
Kenny continued therapy with John, working as hard as he could in each visit. After missing 3.5 months of work, he was finally released to go back on January 25th. He never missed a beat. He ran his kitchen the way he always had, a bit slower than normal. On February 6th, he was able to swing that club, in the kitchen of course, without losing his balance and with some power. He was feeling great and knew he was making great progress. On Monday, March 27th, he took our daughter to the golf course and played his first round of golf since the accident, a small par-3 course. He felt good! I sure did miss being there, as I had seen all of his “firsts” within his recovery but I was glad he had that moment with our daughter. I, of course, enjoyed watching via Facetime! A week later when I joined him on the course, I was amazed that just six months prior, he couldn’t even stand up! He is at the range weekly now and will be on the course weekly sooner than later as well!
About a week ago, Kenny and I started walking at a neighborhood park in the evenings and on Sunday, March 11th, he took off jogging, literally, while holding his cane! A man of few words and so much talent has shown the world what hard work, grit, and perseverance means! I have been in awe of him throughout this entire journey and continue to be when I watch him try something he hasn’t been able to do and do it! He is MY fighter! Once a Golden Glove boxer and now a fighter to “Get Back Right!” I cannot wait for him to play in his first golf tournament later this month (March) and then have him twirl me around on the dance floor at our wedding on June 12th!”
Kenny’s motivation came naturally for him, because he always had a clear ‘why’ – his family. He says, “I just had the mentality to get back right. “Get back right” is a lyric of one of my son’s favorite songs. That stuck with me through along the way. I just wanted to be whole again and I’m grateful I wasn’t hurt worse. I’ve been motivated to come out of this better than I was before. I feel like I stronger, more focused, and I really have a better appreciation for people who are going through injuries or disabilities. It’s not easy. I’m also motivated to stay active with my sons. We’re really competitive – cooking, lifting, sports, golf. Dad’s trying to stay king for as long as possible.”
Kenny also told us that physical therapy provided the tools and framework that he needed for his recovery. He says, “You guys push me when I need it. I always try to go above and beyond. If you say do 20, I try for 30. I might not get there, but I’m gonna try.”
John and the Axes team feel truly honored to have been a positive role in this now almost 7 month long journey. John shared the similar sentiments about Kenny and his grit, saying, “Kenny has been an ideal patient. He responded very well to functional training, ASTYM, and Blood Flow Restriction as compliments to his treatment plan. Kenny shows up to every session and puts in the work, no matter how good or bad he is feeling. I can always count on his effort and positive attitude – and that’s a huge reason for his success.”
Thank you, Kenny, for choosing and trusting Axes Physical Therapy and allowing us to share your inspirational story. It’s been a long road, with just a little bit more to go, but rest assured, we are there for you every step of the way.
Congratulations on GETTING BACK RIGHT!