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Serious injury can re-calibrate outlook on life in a hurry

January 2 was going to be a long day. My family and I were driving back home from visiting family that day. It was just after 7 a.m. I was making my last trip down the stairs and we were five minutes from beginning our 14 hour journey. I successfully navigated 13 steps. My mother’s house has 14 steps. I slipped and fell hard, fracturing my right tibia and fibula. It is surreal looking down and seeing a body part pointing the wrong way.

As I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance to arrive, one of the first questions out of my mouth was “Am I ever going to officiate again?” It was a legitimate question, but as the hours and days went along, my attitude and priorities changed.

I had surgery on January 3. The bones were set and doctors placed in titanium rods and screws. During surgery, my oxygen levels dropped low and doctors were concerned I was in pulmonary distress. I woke up to physicians removing the ventilator (another surreal experience) from my throat, the orthopedic doctor telling me the surgery went well, and a nurse telling me I had a rough go in the operating room. My oxygen levels soon came back to normal and doctors were pleased with my recovery.

The best moment of the day was when I opened my eyes in recovery, saw my wife, and she said, “Am I glad to see you!”

As I lay in the recovery room, I took stock in life. I could have started feeling sorry for myself, wigging out over my future officiating career and getting angry at the seeming randomness of such a freak accident. Instead, I became grateful that it was a broken leg. I could have hit my head and had a serious neurological injury. I could have injured my spine and suffered in pain for the rest of my life. I could have broken my neck and been paralyzed, or worse. Thinking of it like that, I was grateful it was “only” a broken leg.

I also learned what is worth getting stressed out over and what is not worth the time and effort. Me missing a holding call that springs the go-ahead touchdown is nothing. Job status, the checking account balance, and the outcome of the 2016 presidential primaries are nothing.

Faith, family, and friends are everything.

I eventually made it home safely and next week starts several rounds of doctor appointments, physical therapy, and recovery.

I am grateful to be here and able to armchair officiate in the playoffs. It could have been so much worse.

Oh, and the surgeon said I will be good to go and officiate the entire high school football season starting this August.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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8 thoughts on “Serious injury can re-calibrate outlook on life in a hurry

  1. Wow. I love your new priorities in life, but I’m so sorry to hear about the journey you had to endure on the way. Ouch!

    It’s good to hear that you’re on the mend and can constructively grump about the NFL refs with the rest of us.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery and for a great 2016 season!

  2. I think back to the hits I’ve taken over the years as a HS wing and worry that there is going to be one that I’m not going to get up from on my own. Being 52 now, the recovery time is longer and harder.
    I am transitioning to WH by working MS level games as my son is currently playing varsity so I hope to get back to a full schedule in 2017. That is if my feet and knees and ankles hold up.

    Good luck with the rehab.

  3. Holy crap! Glad you are OK. I fell on ice back in 2012 and shattered my back. Falling sucks. Makes you appreciate how athletic these football players are that they can endure dozens of falls, every game, far worse than what injured you (and me). Hang in there and hope you make a full recovery.

  4. Mark, I pray for 100% recovery. So sorry to hear about your accident. We all suffer injury in life. You can only go forward boldly.

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