Road to Recovery
Warren sophomore makes return to sports after major knee surgery
Thirteen-year-old Madison Mohney tore the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in her right knee while playing soccer on June 25, 2016.
Physically, it took Madison 434 days, one major surgery, 97 physical therapy sessions, seven EMT’s, six general doctors, two orthopedic doctors, and a chiropractor to recover.
But Madison will tell you that the most painful part of the recovery is not physical at all.
“What they don’t tell you is how scary this process is,” Madison, who also made the varsity cheerleading squad at WAHS as a freshman, said. “It was really frustrating all the time, and honestly it was depressing some of the time too.”
“Most people know something about the physical aspect of rehabbing after a surgery like this,” said Madison’s father, Mike Trojanowski. “What they don’t understand is the mental aspect, especially for a teenage girl.”
Madison’s injury was originally diagnosed by medics as a dislocated kneecap.
“They told me it was dislocated and would heal with rest after a couple of weeks,” she said. “So I waited a couple of weeks. It started to get a little better, but I could never completely straighten it. I went to a cheerleading competition and didn’t really do much. When I returned to soccer I attempted to kick a ball and my leg just collapsed under me.”
A second opinion and MRI confirmed a completely torn ACL, and surgery was eventually recommended and performed on September 23, 2016. The surgery was performed by Dr. Patrick Bosch of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a complicated surgery for someone her (Madison’s) age, because the surgeon has to navigate around growth plates,” Trojanowski said. “But Doctor Bosch was thrilled with how the surgery itself went.”
The end of the surgery marked the beginning of a grueling recovery process.
“It was a week (after the surgery) before I could even move around,” Madison said. “After that, it was more than two months on crutches.”
Next was the physical therapy.
“Her therapist was Allen Briendel at CTI in Warren,” Trojanowski said. “He was fantastic. He was almost a mental therapist to her as well with all the experience he has.”
Madison described the physical therapy process as “stagnant.”
“Some days I would feel better than I did before, some days it was worse,” she said. “It was super frustrating. My doctors and therapist told me that recoveries from surgeries like this are different for everyone.”
The slow recovery process took a toll on Madison mentally.
“I felt depressed at times, like I wasn’t myself,” she said. “Part of it was feeling left out. I had to do homebound school because I couldn’t get around the school well enough on my crutches. I couldn’t do cheerleading, I couldn’t do soccer, I wasn’t in the school yearbook at all. It was kind of like I didn’t even exist for a while. I didn’t really have many people my age I could talk to about it because it’s not a normal thing for a girl my age to go through. Some days no one would talk to me at all. I know it wasn’t because they were being mean, it was because they didn’t understand. So I went through periods of self-doubt, and that was scary. There was a point during the therapy that I decided I wasn’t going to come back and play soccer, but luckily I changed my mind on that.”
“It was tough seeing her like that,” Trojanowski said. “There were days were she would cry before physical therapy, there were days when she would cry after. I could tell that she felt left out. She was used to going from sport to sport after school, now she had nothing. It was a tough time.”
Despite her ongoing recovery, Madison was able to earn an academic letter as well as a varsity cheerleading letter. She was cleared for physical activity on May 18, 2017, just in time for cheerleading tryouts four days later.
Now, Madison is back as a varsity cheerleader and is also a member of the WAHS girls soccer team.
“I’ve participated in about half of the soccer practices, but I’ve started amping it up in the past couple of weeks,” she said. “I’ve had some other physical issues because for over a year I worked on nothing but my knee. But that’s just nagging stuff, nothing major.”
Madison, now a 14-year-old sophomore, has played mostly JV soccer so far this year, but has seen action in a pair of varsity games. She hopes to earn more varsity time by the end of the year.
“I know the program is an ‘earn it’ type of program,” she said. “I’m hoping I can see more time on varsity as the year goes on, but mostly I’m just happy to be a part of the team again.”
Madison is considering running track in the spring. She also hopes to help people going through similar situations.
“I know now how hard this is,” she said. “There is another girl on the soccer team (Sawyer Mohney, no relation) going through a knee injury, and I want to help her as much as I can by using my experience. I can’t change what happened to me but I can help other people.”
“We are very proud of her,” Trojanowski said. “Flat out, it’s the most difficult thing I’ve witnessed as a father. Thank God it wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but watching her go through all the pain and tears, feeling lost without her team and her friends, and worst of all forgotten, was horrible. Most of this fight she had to do herself, and she did it. That’s a lot to ask for a 13 or 14 year old.”