ATHLETE: Heather Aleksis
SPORT: Lifetime Soccer Player
SURGERY: ACL and Meniscus (Arthroscopic)
DATE OF SURGERY: September 30, 2014
Everything happens for a reason…not a phrase 20-year-old Heather Aleksis said to herself upon simultaneously tearing her ACL and meniscus twenty minutes into her second soccer game for Nassau Community College. “The pain was intense,” Heather reported. However, other than a swollen leg, she wasn’t even aware of the extent of the injury; but that evening when her mother took her to the emergency room, she learned that she tore both her ACL and meniscus. Surgery was a must and the road ahead looked long. “At that point I was less concerned with playing soccer and more concerned about the process I was about to take on,” Heather said.
A second year college student, Heather spent her first year away in New Haven, CT. “It just wasn’t what I wanted…it wasn’t for me,” she said about her time in New Haven. “I was coming home, but I still had no idea what I wanted to major in.”
When Heather decided to come home, she registered for Nassau Community College, but at the time, didn’t think she was going to play on the soccer team. “Four weeks before the season started I decided to play. At that point I knew I had a lot of work to do to get into shape. I mean, I was running a 14-minute mile…not good. I trained like crazy, changed my nutrition and started running 5-7 miles a day,” Heather explains shaking her head. “It just was too much. I know that now.”
Seeing that she’s a lifetime athlete, Heather is extremely familiar with the mechanics of her own body. “I went in for a tackle and everything just snapped; I knew something was wrong.”
Once her injury was confirmed, Heather had a month before surgery. In order to prepare, her doctor suggested she start physical therapy right away. Therapy prior to surgery is proven to strengthen the area, improve range of motion and speed up healing. Peak refers to this process as prehabilitation or pre-hab. Heather’s pre-hab treatment at Peak Performance consisted of stretching, flexibility exercises, ice and stim. “Prehab allowed me full range of motion going into surgery,” Heather said. “I had a great team taking care of me.” George Adamides was Heather’s therapist and Jordan Cabral-Martin was her Aide. “I didn’t even want to be touched. I was so scared that every little thing was going to hurt me even more, but their caring made it easier.”
Only two days after the surgery, Heather was back in therapy. “My pain level was high and I could barely get in the car. I didn’t want to come back, but soon the whole staff felt like family and that added another aspect of comfort to my experience. I mean, I was at Peak 3x a week for 5 or 6 months. I basically lived there, ” Heather explained. “The therapy was balance intensive with a heavy focus on flexibility.”
Despite her pretty smile and strawberry blonde hair, Heather is a fighter. She didn’t let the fact that her leg was in a long leg immobilizer (otherwise known as a brace running from the top of her thigh to the bottom of her ankle) stop her from going to school; with the help of her mother who drove her everyday. Just as with any recovery process, Heather experienced many frustrations. “My whole life changed. I relearned how to walk, how to put on clothes; I was totally unstable on my own…wore a brace for two months.” But despite all of Heather’s physical hurdles, she said that the worst part was the emotional aspect. “You have to keep a positive attitude. That was something I had to learn. It wasn’t like that in the beginning…when I was more concerned with the physical aspect…over time it became much more emotional.”
Once Heather was strong enough, instead of leaving Peak Performance, she stayed on for personal training with Peak Performance Fitness. “My leg was still so weak and the training really helped build up strength.” That’s a perfect example of why Peak offers fitness. Recovery is only half of the process. Many people don’t realize that in order to avoid a future injury, one must strengthen their body as well as the injured area. At Peak Performance Fitness, the trainers have access to your physical therapy file and can build a fitness regime around each patients personal weakness. “The combination of the therapy and fitness trainng allowed me to get back to playing soccer. I recently participated in an Alumni Game for Nassau. It was my redemption and felt good to be back.”
Before the injuries, Heather was unsure about her college major. “I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be, what my future held or what career I was going to commit to. The injury was horrible, but it was a catalyst. After the awesome experience I had at Peak and the difference the therapist made in my life, I’ve decided to become a physical therapist. I want to do for other people what George and Jordan did for me. I’m currently applying to schools and about to start working at Peak as an aide.”
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