Returning To The Mound: Ashland athlete returns to the game after a broken leg

By Shannon Whitney

This story is featured in the Spring 2013 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.

When he hit the pitch, he thought it might be a homerun. The score was 2-1, his Southern Boone County Eagles were trailing Osage High School. There were two runners on base, and junior Gus Goodnight watched his hit soar into the outfield.

The ball hit the ground and bounced over the fence. Gus knew he hit a ground rule double. He would get to take second base and two RBI’s.

Boone Hospital Center, Gus, baseballBut Gus never made it to second.

As he rounded first base, he was watching the ball. He stepped on the base awkwardly, and snap! Gus fell with a harrowing pain in his left leg.

Right away he knew something was wrong.

“My first reactions were I think I broke my leg; when am I going to be back? Did those runs score?” recalls Gus, now a senior.

A baseball player since he was 5 years old, the then high school junior was nervous about spending time away from the game within seconds of his injury.

The coaches hustled over, and someone called an ambulance. As Gus was carried off the field, both the Eagles and their opponents lined up to watch him go before saying a prayer.

The ambulance took him to a nearby hospital, but right away they knew he needed more help than they could offer. The Goodnights drove their son to Boone Hospital Center. They had heard about Todd Oliver, MD; they wanted him to take care of Gus.

Visiting team

After he was admitted and settled in, Gus and his family started getting calls and texts from his teammates and their parents.

Everyone wanted to come visit Gus. The nurses on the floor said that would be fine. The baseball team poured in at 11 p.m.

“When he was here as a patient, it really made a big difference. They didn’t have to let those kids up there at 11 p.m. at night, but they did. It was good for the kids and Gus. Even though it inconvenienced the staff, they put their patients first. We went home talking about that,” said Tima Goodnight, Gus’ mom and former Boone nurse.

“All of us moms thought, ‘Okay, guys, it’s just a broken leg. There are kids out there who are really sick,” she remembered. “But to those boys, it could have happened to any of them. It made it real.”

For the rest of the weekend, Gus followed his team through a website with regular score and stat updates. It was hard not to be on the field with his buddies.

“It made me realize a lot of things. I always thought of myself highly, but then I saw they could do it without me,” said Gus.

The day after the accident, Dr. Oliver came to see Gus. He gently felt his leg and explained how Gus would need surgery and that would mean the end of this baseball season.

“It’s never easy telling a young athlete that they have a bad injury and they’re going to miss a lot of playing time,” said Dr. Oliver. “I reassured him that he is going to get through it, and if he does things right, he’ll heal faster and get back on the field.”

Dr. Oliver put a rod in Gus’ tibia and a plate on his fibula. Gus wore a boot for the rest of the school year.

“I always tell my patients, I get the easy part. I have to put them back together. They have the hard part, they have all the work,” said Dr. Oliver.

When Gus left the hospital five days after the accident, his work was just beginning.

Adjusting to the sidelines

At his high school in Ashland, Gus played varsity baseball and football. He was accustomed to being in the middle of the action.

“We know when he becomes an adult and looks back on it, this will only be a tiny part of his life,” said Tima. “But when you’re 16, that’s a big deal to miss your purpose in life.”

With his leg in a boot, he made some big changes.

“It was hard every day getting up. I couldn’t sleep the way I used to. I had to sleep with my boot, and I couldn’t roll around,” explained Gus. “We have a batting cage in our basement, so I had to get out of bed and see that batting cage. That was rough.”

He still attended practices and games to support his team.

“It’s different to see a team from that point of view, rather than playing. You see why the coaches do stuff,” laughed Gus. “Whenever they make you run, you think this is so dumb, we shouldn’t be doing this. Whenever you are on the sideline watching and helping, you see they are out of shape and need to be running more.”

Back in the game

Dr. Oliver cleared Gus to play football on Senior Night, the final game of the season. His coach put him in as an outside linebacker, even though he played on the defensive line before the injury.

He played four plays the entire season, all in that final game.

It was easier getting back into baseball because it was a less physical game.

Early this fall, Gus returned to the mound during a fall league game. He and his mom clearly remembers the first batter.

“We were in the stands crying because he’s pitching again and we never thought we’d see the day. Then, this kid hits a homerun,” laughed Tima.

“I was furious,” scowled Gus.

He also eased back into batting, at first with the help of a pinch runner, all the while sending photos back to Dr. Oliver.

Gus goes to the Columbia Speed Academy a couple times each week to prepare for baseball season this spring. This March, his team traveled to Florida to squeeze in some spring training games before the season started.

When asked about his senior season, he replied, “I’m really excited. I’m ready to get back into it.”

Gus hopes to continue his baseball career into college. In the meantime, he’s just happy to be back on the mound.

Boone Hospital Center, Gus, baseball

This story is featured in the Spring 2013 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.

2 Responses to Returning To The Mound: Ashland athlete returns to the game after a broken leg

  1. Beau Baehman says:

    Dr. Todd Oliver, Columbia Orthopaedic Group and Boone Hospital are all amazing!

  2. Sue Jendraszkiewicz says:

    I worked for Dr. Oliver for almost 6 years here in Mt. Home, Ar. and I can not say enough about what a wonderful surgeon and the most caring Dr. I have ever worked for. I’m so pleased that he is still doing the same for the people of Columbia, but sure do wish we still had him here. Sue Jendraszkiewicz

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