by Sean Jensen
Mike Kizzee prides himself on preparation, and he has a clear plan of action on what to do if his fiancée or either of his two children need medical attention.
Ashley, Trey and Aliya have needed to visit hospitals, including multiple trips to the emergency room. But Kizzee, a former high school basketball and hockey player at Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, Minn., didn’t have any protocols in place for himself.
“For me, it’s different,” Kizzee says. “I’ve never been hurt. I don’t have experience being injured.”
So Kizzee’s world was turned upside down in mid-October when he was injured playing basketball and ended up in the TRIA exam room of renowned orthopedic surgeon, Joel Boyd, MD.
“I kind of thought I was invincible for a time,” Kizzee says. “I knew this could happen, but I didn’t really think it would.”
New to the world of orthopedics, Kizzee was grateful that a longtime friend was familiar with local surgeons and recommended Dr. Boyd, the longtime team physician for the Minnesota Wild and former head physician for the Minnesota Vikings.
“I could try to do this on my own, but there’s a chance that I could end up with a doctor that I’m not happy with,” Kizzee says. “But Dr. Boyd had the credentials, working with major athletes, so it gave me that much more confidence. I wanted to capitalize on that opportunity.”
On Oct. 16, Kizzee headed to 43 Hoops in Hopkins to play in a regular, early-morning private pickup game comprised mostly of adults who played basketball at local colleges. Kizzee, who himself played basketball at a junior college, was invited to the game about three years ago.
Kizzee enjoyed the competitiveness of the group, how there was minimal bickering and teams were generally evenly-matched. That morning though, Kizzee had scrambled out of his Hopkins townhouse, with his son Trey in tow, a few minutes later than he’d planned. Trey loves to watch his dad play basketball, and he was allowed to tag along because he didn’t have school that day. Kizzee took the court for his first game minutes after arriving, without warming up or stretching.
On a fast-break, Kizzee darted up the left side of the court then cut to his right in the lane. When he planted his right leg, his knee buckled awkwardly and he crumpled to the hardwood floor.
Kizzee writhed and screamed.
Trey, playing on a different court, rushed over toward his dad. Despite the overwhelming pain, Kizzee assured Trey that he would be fine. After being carried to the side of the court, Kizzee called his fiancée to inform her of the injury and ask her to pick up Trey and take him home.
After icing his knee, Kizzee was helped up and tried to test his leg, but he was still in substantial pain. Kizzee’s friend offered to take him to the hospital, and three other players helped carry him to the backseat of the SUV.
Road to recovery
The following Monday, Kizzee was at TRIA in Bloomington, awaiting the arrival of Dr. Boyd. He was wearing a bulky knee brace, and he could not comfortably walk. The MRI results confirmed what he feared: Kizzee had extensive damage to his right knee. Dr. Boyd informed him that he had a completely torn ACL and MCL, and a partially torn LCL.
Dr. Boyd was mindful that this was Kizzee’s first serious injury.
“There’s the old saying, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’ ” Dr. Boyd says. “You’re being forced into an area that you’ve never had a conversation about. All the language is new.”
So Dr. Boyd focused on using analogies to illustrate his points, and he carefully explained the pathology and reinforced the whys behind his recommendations.
“A lot of things are pretty common, and I want to give patients assurance that they’re not the first or last,” he says.
Dr. Boyd chuckles when asked about the difference between patients who are pro athletes and patients who are not.
“I tell them all the same thing: Biology is biology. It doesn’t matter who you are, per se,” Dr. Boyd says. “If you asked me tomorrow: ‘How long before I can go back to playing basketball?’ I would say 8 or 9 months. That’s the biology. It’s like having a baby is nine months.”
On Dec. 12, Kizzee returned to TRIA for his surgery. The procedure lasted just over an hour, and Dr. Boyd hailed it a success. Kizzee quickly started physical therapy to reduce swelling and regain motion.
Kizzee thrives on competition, and he wants to return to his active and athletic lifestyle. He lamented that he won’t be able to play broom-ball this winter with friends for the first time in 18 years.
“I’m already bummed about that,” he says.
But Kizzee knows he’s in good hands with Dr. Boyd and the physical therapists at TRIA.
“My confidence is at an all-time high,” he says.
In the recovery room, not long after surgery, Kizzee was still groggy from anesthesia. But when he saw Ashley, Kizzee’s first words were about their kids and their activities later that afternoon.
“What if I don’t get out of here in time to get Trey to karate?” Kizzee asked.
Ashley laughed. She already had a plan in place. Other relatives were ready and willing to transport Trey and Aliya to their sports.
“He’s got such a big heart,” Ashley says, “and is always thinking about others.”