Injured Athlete

Thankfulness Amid Life’s Uncertainty – by Kimberly Garvin

Saadiq Yusef Wicks. I call him FACE because during his basketball career and even now if given a proper warm-up, focus, and opportunity, he will pull up with the prettiest outside shot…nothing but net. It was always beautiful to watch. On occasion, I actually miss shuffling him back and forth to basketball practices and the weekends we spent at tournaments. We’d lived that basketball life for most of his childhood and it feels short-lived to not still be sitting in a gym somewhere watching him play. Unfortunately, several injuries to two discoid-shaped menisci were enough to thwart Saadiq’s dreams of playing for Duke and then the NBA.

Basketball was Saadiq’s jam and passion – his hashtag – and he had big plans that began at the age of five when he first touched a basketball. His love and competitive nature for the sport were intrinsic and fortunately for me being the coach of the team provided a courtside view. Having played basketball in high school and being a fan of the game made me a suitable coach. And I enjoyed every minute of it. Those little babies were cute. As Saadiq got older his need for a real coach became obvious and I decided to seek out an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Basketball Program that would provide the structure and competitiveness he would need to compete on a higher level. We were committed to Saadiq’s dream and after finding a local gym that had an AAU team, our basketball journey now had wings.

Saadiq did really well with the rigor of competitive play. At eight he was beginning to develop his shot and enjoyed mimicking the moves he made while playing the video game NBA2k. Soon, I became a true basketball mom. Life was basketball for us, until Saadiq’s first injury. It was his left knee; somehow, he collided with another player and bumped knees. It started to swell pretty quickly and he wasn’t able to put much pressure on it. We learned after a visit to a great orthopedic surgeon that Saadiq had torn his meniscus, something Dr. Wechsler couldn’t recall seeing in a patient as young as Saadiq. We were notified that he needed surgery to mend the tear but after rehabilitation, he would be fine. Both Dr. Wechsler and Saadiq seem to be convinced of the certainty of the report and the ease of the procedure…but me? Not so much. This was my little guy who was now faced with a big guy challenge, and even though it was his challenge physically, as a mother it was equally mine emotionally and mentally. Despite his stoic confidence, I knew deep within, there was a potential for the feeling of a setback to brew, and I also knew how disappointed he would be if there was a diversion to his carefully planned timeline.

The detour was short-lived. Saadiq bounced back from his surgery and successfully completed his rehabilitation. After a few necessary follow-ups, Dr. Wechsler gave him the all-clear and he was back on the court. Initially, his moves were a little timid but once he got his footing there was nothing that would keep him from playing the game that he loved so much. It would almost appear that the realization of his inner strength as it related to his recovery perhaps fueled his desire to play on the college level and certainly in the NBA. When Saadiq was ten, he still played in the local AAU league, but he was also practicing in Philadelphia with kids and coaches with whom he was unfamiliar.

On his local team, he played well with people he knew, everyone was so polite; they made sure to pass the ball, working together to achieve the win. This was cool, but Saadiq didn’t want to have fun, he wanted to win, and so did I. In search of more competitive play, we worked out with a few different teams in the Philadelphia area before finding a home with the Bottom Ballers.  Saadiq played for the Bottom Ballers until he could no longer due to his injury. He’ll always be a Bottom Baller at heart, I’m sure.

Saadiq thrived on his new team. Everything he had worked so hard for seemed to be all coming together. Then the unexpected happened during one of his games. Similar to his initial torn meniscus incident, he experienced the same type of injury. A seemingly simple knee bump tore the meniscus in his right knee. He had previously suffered a broken wrist so the idea of another surgery at this point just seemed to be notches in his childhood injury belt. He recovered and we eventually resumed as if nothing had happened.

Saadiq continued to excel in the game he loved so much and was preparing to start high school when the unthinkable happened. During the summer AAU season, Saadiq was hustling to get to a loose ball and collided with another player. He went down in pain, holding his knee. I honestly didn’t think it was a big deal. I thought he just needed to stretch, and he could get back into the game. An MRI showed a meniscus tear on his right knee for the second time at only fourteen years old. We were all equally shocked.

Despite the saying, the third time was not the charm, or maybe it was juxtaposing the plan that God has over our lives. I mean who would have thought that a person could not only tear menisci on both knees but to tear it twice on the same knee at such a young age was mind-blowing. However, the third tear gave us insight into Saadiq’s muscular make-up and limitations.

Upon further investigation, Saadiq’s doctor discovered he had a discoid meniscus in both knees. This means instead of a crescent moon shape, the meniscus has an oval or disc shape instead, making it more prone to injury. And because this was a second tear, it wasn’t just a repair this time. Saadiq would need to have his meniscus replaced.

A replacement meniscus. I remember thinking…where does one get a meniscus? And that’s when it occurred to me; Saadiq was going to get a meniscus from a cadaver, which meant his name and need would be placed on a list, an organ list. It was then that my soul immediately began to pray, while my eyes filled with tears upon the realization that this next surgery was going to be much different and would require more of me. It’s funny how we intuitively know when recognition of the ineffectiveness of our effort settles in. For a minute I honestly looked around for God to physically tag Him as if we were partners in this fight. I needed Him to take over because I knew I couldn’t do whatever it would take to get through the road ahead. I knew God and He knew me; we were good friends yet the dynamics of the looming surgery and the post-recovery that would follow were overwhelming for me and forced my hand in true search of the Healer I’d heard and sung about.

I sang praises to God in the morning and pleaded His blood over our situation in the evening. Throughout the day I just called Jesus in hopes that our situation would change: that Saadiq would receive a meniscus and be relieved from the constant pain of not having one. I believed God for it and knew that He could heal my son, but the wait was difficult.

I remember my perspective changing after Tamekia, a young woman at church stopped me. She asked how I was. My response was that I wasn’t… That’s it, I just wasn’t. I began to share what was going on and the condition of my heart and mind. She listened and had a short response for me. “Thank Him, Kimberly. You haven’t thanked Him.”

Her words brought a total mind shift for me as I never considered this. What an amazing act of faith to thank God for something He hadn’t done yet. That night, and every day afterward, I added a Thank You during my prayers, gratitude for what was coming. Shortly after that Sunday revelation, we received a call. Four months after the initial tear, Saadiq received his new meniscus.

The surgery was a success, and the recovery was for sure a process. The doctors cautioned us that Saadiq “would never leave his feet again”, meaning he wouldn’t be able to run, jump, or do physical activities that playing sports requires. Saadiq and I just smiled because we knew who they obviously didn’t.

God also showed up in his physical therapist, Maggie Fowler (now Burns). She was ‘the exceedingly and abundantly above all you could ask for’ in terms of Saadiq’s rehabilitation. Maggie was half Saadiq’s size but was so impactful to his healing – I’m convinced the success of his recovery can be directly attributed to her.

As basketball season approached, I saw Sadiq’s spirit go down as he was not able to play for his high school. I continued to encourage him that God was going to work everything out for his life and that I needed him to trust God. I signed him up for a photography course as a distraction from what he was missing on the court.

Despite the setback of major surgery during Saadiq’s freshman year, his high school experience seemed to round out. He joined the debate team, went to cotillion, and even joined the track team! That’s right, despite what the doctors said, Saadiq was able to run, and every now and again he plays in a pickup game of basketball. He’s now finding his way in college and I’m proudly anticipating what God has planned for his life.

Doctors 0 God 1

Encouragement for Moms:

No matter what it looks like, feels like, or sounds like, God is in complete control of your situation. All you have to do is thank Him. In advance. And then wait on Him to respond.

Prayer for Moms:

Father, I thank you for all the Moms in the world and ask that you continue to provide a covering over us so that we may cover those you’ve placed in our care. Father, I ask that you fill us up with your love and wisdom so that we may pour it out on those you’ve entrusted us to love unconditionally, just as you love us. Lord, I ask that you give us more patience so that we have the strength to wait on the things we desire to see in our children. Allow us to trust YOU more, although at times we think we know…remind us that although we may YOU know better.  Lord, I ask that you whisper words of encouragement to each Mom reading this blog so that she may remember that YOU are very present and with her always; while folding laundry, driving to practice, watching the game, helping with homework…

God sees you and He loves you. And even now is doing a new thing in you and your family…Behold do you not see it?

Much Love & Many Blessings

k-

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Want to hear more of Kimberly’s story? Watch her Moms Night In Conversation on YouTube

or watch on Facebook here.

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