By Kate Scriven
Roger Johnson is a fit and healthy guy. And throughout his life, he’s remained relatively injury free, steering clear of the surgeon’s knife for all of his years.
Originally from Tacoma, Johnson moved to Olympia in the late 90s and married native Olympian Jessica Johnson. He works for the City of Lacey Parks and Recreation and the couple has two sons, Gabe (14) and Jeremiah (12). Both boys are active and 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,” laughs Jessica. Both boys played with Thurston County Youth Football League (TCYFL) and Gabe now plays for Timberline High School.
It was his boys’ passion that sparked Roger to try football himself. He’d never played in his youth, but playing with and coaching his kids and watching TCYFL practices and games, Roger found himself wanting to get in on the action.
He tried out for the Washington Cavaliers, a semi-pro football team in the Greater Northwest Football Association. Roger was finally on the field, playing full back, and his boys were cheering him from the sideline. However, his football career came to an end quickly. In July 2013, during his third season in a game that would ultimately send the Cavaliers to the championship, 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.”
“This was my first major injury ever,” says Roger. “I’ve never broken any bones in my life, never had surgery ever.” The unknown road ahead of him was daunting to say the least.
He started with an assessment in the emergency room at Providence St. Peter Hospital. From there he was referred to Olympia Orthopaedics 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.”
Roger’s injury was sustained mid-July and the surgery wasn’t until the first week of September. In the interim, he worked hard at his PT 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.” With such a healthy track record, it was understandable that once he understood the extent of the damage to his knee, Roger was feeling nervous about the prospect of surgery.
Roger admits, “I was really, really scared.” But despite his fears, Dr. Zechmann, a 22-year veteran surgeon at Oly Ortho, put his mind at ease. “He was wonderful from the very beginning,” Roger shares. “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,” says Jessica. “Dr. Zechmann’s goal was to get Roger back playing football if he wanted to, and that was really reassuring.”
The surgery was completed at the Outpatient Surgery Center in 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. But all went well and Roger was able to go home the same day.
Will Roger go back to the Washington Cavaliers? “No, I’m not going to play again. I’ll just play with my boys,” he says.
However, Roger found a new way to get his “Life in Motion,” the Oly Ortho motto and ultimate goal for all patients. During post-surgical rehab, Roger discovered of a wide variety of physical activities he’d not tried before. “I started working out, which I’d never done before. It helped my knee, but I also lost weight,” he explains. He also began joining his wife, a marathon runner, on adventures in the mountains and on trails.
Thinking back to surgery day and how he felt, Roger laughs, “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.”
During Roger’s injury, physical therapy, surgery and recovery, the Johnson family lovingly nicknamed his torn ACL, “Pedro.” Now, whenever anything goes wrong around the house or the kids need a scapegoat they can just blame Pedro. “Pedro is just a new member of the family. Thanks to Dr. Zechmann, we can just blame it on Pedro,” jokes Roger.
If you need to get your “Life in Motion” again, contact Olympia Orthopaedic Associates at 1-800-936-3386.