My name is Riley Wester, and I am a sophomore on the Notre Dame softball team. On the second day of season my freshmen year, I stepped awkwardly and fell to the ground while doing a dynamic warm up before our game. It turned out I completely snapped my tendons on the outside of my left ankle and basically had no stability. You could legitimately hear my tendons snapping over the bone when I would move my ankle.
I had surgery on March 29, 2018 to repair my retinaculum peroneal tendons. My recovery had a lot of setbacks. I felt like for every step forward, I took three steps backwards. Although the surgery was successful, my ankle was still hurting, so I had some more MRIs and X-rays done, saw some more doctors, and unfortunately found out I needed surgery. Again.
After taking another look at my ankle, the doctor told me I could potentially be in the 10% of people who would need a groove deepening in my bone, so my tendons could have more room. I fell into that 10%. A bone chip also occurred sometime in the fall which my surgeon removed. Along with those two incisions, he also did a scope on the top of my ankle to remove any inflammation and anything else concerning. I basically had three different surgeries in one on November 20, 2018.
This recovery has been the hardest and most painful thing I have ever been through. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming or crying, or both, because of the amount of physical pain I was in. I was on crutches for three months and just started walking 2 weeks ago. Already, the ability to walk on my own has improved my quality of life so much and has been an absolute game changer.
Being completely dependent on people is something I’m not particularly good at. I absolutely hate asking people for help; I constantly feel like a burden. Sometimes it’s just easier to say you’re fine and doing good when in all reality you’re not. I felt like I would repeat the same day over and over again. The same routine, the same feelings, the same yearning that one day I would actually be happy and everything wouldn’t seem pointless. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t shower on my own. I couldn’t open doors for myself. I couldn’t get my own food at the dining hall. I couldn’t play the sport I’ve been playing my whole life. The mental trauma of going through something like this, not once but twice, can sometimes be too much to handle and the endless hours of rehab too consuming. Being in the dugout, not even capable of playing, has been so hard and the feeling of not being a part of the team always lingers. I’ve been through the darkest times of my life alone, so sometimes I think I don’t need help from others.
The first surgery on my ankle wasn’t my first surgery, let alone my first injury. I’ve had my fair share of cortisone shots and hours of rehab for injuries that I don’t even want to list. For the past 4 years, I feel like I have spent every single day trying to recover from these countless injuries, and I know I still have a long way to go. However, the amazing people I have in my life have supported me through it all. Even when I said I didn't need help, they still did anyway. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family, friends, teammates, coaches, trainers/doctors, but most importantly my older sister Ali. She is the sole reason I’ve made it this far in life. My sister is also on the Notre Dame softball team, and on the days where I didn’t think I could get out of bed because of the amount of emotional, mental, or even physical pain I was in, she was there. She would help me get up, dress me, feed me, and take me wherever I needed to go. She was the second mom I didn’t know I desperately needed.
Being injured left me completely vulnerable and taught me how to embrace that, which is extremely difficult for me. It also proved to me who truly cares about me and who wants to see me overcome any hardships in my life. My scars don’t remind me of the struggles I’ve been through. Instead they remind me of the struggles I’ve overcome and am still overcoming. They are a constant reminder of “you can do this”. The memory of when I couldn't walk on my own and felt absolutely helpless reminds me that I'm stronger now. My injuries have given me a new appreciation of my life and the way I live it. My scars are a part of my story and they’ve made me stronger. For that, I’m proud.