Roger Johnson is a fit and healthy guy. And throughout his life, he’s thankfully avoided any major injury, broken bone and especially the surgeon’s knife. But, that all changed in July of 2013.
Tacoma native Johnson moved to Olympia in the late ’90s and married Jessica Johnson, a lifelong Olympian. Johnson works for the City of Lacey Parks and Recreation and he and Jessica have two sons, Gabe (14) and Jeremiah (12). For this family, football is passion number one. “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. Since they were young, the boys have played with Thurston County Youth Football League (TCYFL) and Gabe now plays on the Timberline High School team.
After many years playing with his boys, coaching them and watching numerous TCYFL games, Roger decided to try football himself. He’d never played in his youth but found himself wanting to get in on the action.
After a bit of research, he discovered the Washington Cavaliers, a semi-pro football team in the Greater Northwest Football Association. He tried out and made the team and began playing full back, this time with his boys cheering for him from the sideline. As chance would have it, though, his football career came to an abrupt end. In his third season in July 2013, during a game that sent 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.” And he was terrified of what this injury meant for him.
A visit to the emergency room at Providence St. Peter Hospital confirmed his fears, that his knee needed surgery. He was referred to Olympia Orthopaedics Associates where he saw Dr. Jerome Zechmann. Roger’s wife Jessica explains, “Because the damage to some of the ligaments was non-surgical, they had us do physical therapy first. They wanted to strengthen those ligaments before going ahead with the repair to the ACL.”
Roger waited six weeks before his early September surgery. In the meantime, he did his PT regularly and consulted with Dr. Zechmann on what he was facing in the upcoming surgery. “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 his first experience with anesthesia and surgery looming, Roger was understandably nervous.
Roger admits, “I was really, really scared.” However, 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,” Jessica shares. “Dr. Zechmann’s goal was to get Roger back playing football if he wanted to, and that was really reassuring.”
The Johnson’s arrived early at the Outpatient Surgery Center in the Oly Ortho Westside Clinic on surgery day. “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 everything went smoothly, and Roger was home resting the same day.
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.
Despite hanging up his football cleats, Roger found a new way to get his “Life in Motion,” the Oly Ortho motto and ultimate goal for all patients. While undergoing PT and rehab after surgery, Roger discovered he loved working out at the gym. “I started working out, which I’d never done before. It helped my knee, but I also lost weight,” he explains. He joined Jessica, a marathon runner and hiker, more and more often on hikes and adventures in the outdoors, getting the whole family active.
Recalling his first surgery experience 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.”
You never know what might come of an injury. In Roger’s case the Johnson family gained a “new member” as they 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.