Meet Roger Johnson. He’s fit, he’s healthy and he has luckily remained relatively injury free, avoiding any kind of surgery, for his entire life. However, in 2013 Johnson found himself facing the surgeon’s knife, and he wasn’t happy about it.
A Tacoma native and Mount Tahoma High School graduate, Roger relocated to Olympia in the late 90’s and married his wife, Jessica. The City of Lacey Parks and Recreation employee didn’t have a history of playing team sports, but the couple’s two sons, Gabe (14) and Jeremiah (12), are athletic with a passion for football. “We have a joke in our house that ‘football never sleeps’ because someone is always in football, or it’s the Seahawks season,” Jessica says laughing. Both boys played with Thurston County Youth Football League (TCYFL) and Gabe now plays for Timberline High School.
Despite never playing football himself, Roger dove into the sport with enthusiasm, playing with and coaching his kids. After many seasons watching TCYFL practices and games, he found himself wanting to get in on the action.
Not one to start small, Roger tried out for the Washington Cavaliers, a semi-pro football team in the Greater Northwest Football Association. Now it was his turn to play, serving as a full back for the Cavaliers, with his family cheering from the sidelines. However, his football career came to an abrupt end. In July 2013, during his third season, Roger blew out his right knee. And, when Roger says “blew out,” he means it. “I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), stretched my MCL (medial collateral ligament) and the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) was also gone.” The team went on to win the game, which sent them to the championships, but Roger was out for good.
“This was my first major injury ever,” he shares. “I’ve never broken any bones in my life, never had surgery ever.” The road to recovery included surgery, and Roger was scared.
Jessica and Roger started at the ER at Providence St. Peter Hospital. After initial assessment, Roger was referred to Olympia Orthopaedic Associates where he saw Dr. Jerome Zechmann. “Because the damage to some of the ligaments was non-surgical, they had us do physical therapy first,” says Jessica. “They wanted to strengthen those ligaments before going ahead with the repair to the ACL.”
It was mid-July when he injured his knee and the surgery wasn’t until the first week of September. In the meantime, he worked with a physical therapist and consulted with Dr. Zechmann on what to expect come surgery time. “He thought maybe if he worked really hard at PT he could avoid surgery,” laughs Jessica. “I kept telling him it just doesn’t work that way.”
Roger admits, “I was really, really scared.” However, Dr. Zechmann, a 22-year veteran surgeon at Oly Ortho, helped ease his fears. “He was wonderful from the very beginning,” Roger states. “He let me know what to expect pre-surgery and post-surgery. From the very beginning, the whole team was comforting.”
“They did a great job keeping us informed at every stage, letting us know what the options were,” explains Jessica. “Dr. Zechmann’s goal was to get Roger back playing football if he wanted to, and that was really reassuring.”
Roger’s surgery was done at the Outpatient Surgery Center at the Oly Ortho Westside Clinic in September 2013. “I was still afraid, of course, even right up to the day of the surgery. I really didn’t want to go under the knife,” he admits. Despite his nerves, all went beautifully and he was back home that afternoon.
Is a return to the Washington Cavaliers in Roger’s future? “No, I’m not going to play again. I’ll just play with my boys,” he says.
However, Roger has discovered a whole new way to get his “Life in Motion,” which is also the Oly Ortho motto and ultimate goal for all patients. Anyone who has had joint surgery knows the post-surgical rehab is extensive. Through this experience, Roger discovered new activities he has come to love. “I started working out, which I’d never done before. It helped my knee, but I also lost weight,” he explains. Additionally, Roger and Jessica, a marathoner, began hiking regularly together.
Recalling his surgery, Roger says through laughter, “Yeah – I was scared. I was scared out of my mind! But, I have to admit, if I were to do this again, I’d go back to Oly Ortho. They took care of me from the very moment I arrived.”
Recovery from an extensive injury such as Roger’s takes family support. And, the Johnson family took to calling his torn ACL, “Pedro.” Jokes Roger, “Pedro’s a new member of the family. Thanks to Dr. Zechmann, we can just blame it on Pedro.”
If you need to get your “Life in Motion” again, contact Olympia Orthopaedic Associates at 1-800-936-3386.