A Kettlebell Success Story

July 20, 2010 06:01 AM

My name is Chris Pate. I have been a Police Officer for thirteen years and am currently employed by the Tallahassee Police Department. I am a bicycle patrol officer and have been involved with bike patrol for about ten years. Cycling is one of my main hobbies and getting paid to do it is a blast.

Working out with kettlebells has also become a major aspect of my life. I have always done some sort of strength training but when I discovered kettlebells it was like some sort of awakening. I got into it about two years ago. I started out with a 44lb kettlebell and then got two 53lb kettlebells. For Christmas I got a 35lb and a 70lb kettlebell. My strength with kettlebells was improving, I was able to press and snatch the 70 lb kettlebell for a good amount of reps.

This year I was supposed to go on vacation to Moab and was going to sign up for the September RKC instructor certification. I was real excited about the upcoming year. On Feb. 16th my whole life changed. I was at work attending a riot squad training session. We were going through are drills. We put on gas masks and hit the obstacle course. I went through the first several obstacles and came to a wooden window frame that was about four feet high. I went through the window and jumped out. I landed on my right foot and instantly broke my leg. My leg crumbled like someone knocking over a glass. It was so loud that people around me heard it. My leg broke so fast I could not believe it. I was lying on the ground in the worst pain I have ever felt. I was on the verge of blacking out. Paramedics arrived on scene in about ten minutes. All I could think about was getting some pain medication. They got me in the van and shot me up with 25mg. of morphine, which did absolutely nothing for me. The hospital was about twenty mile away.

I arrived to the hospital and met my doctor. He is a reserve officer with our department and has put many of our guys back together. He cut my boot off and there was my foot hanging off to the left and swollen like a football. He had to give me another 20mg. of morphine to kill the pain. My wife and daughter arrive to the hospital just before the x-rays. Everybody was kind of joking around thinking it is just a broken leg and that it was no big deal. My wife wanted my Sgt. to photograph it. After the x-rays nobody was laughing. I did not know what was going on at this point and remember asking the doctor if I was going to be able to ride a bike again. I have no idea how many times I asked him that, it was the only thing I was worried about. I then went into surgery.

I woke up around 4 A.M. and was in extreme pain. The nurse showed me how to administer the pain medication and I knocked myself out. Later that day the doctor visited me and told me that I had a serious injury but would be back in 6 months to a year. He was sugar coating the injury but I would understand why a week later. I went home four days after surgery. I could barely move. I had a cast on up to my knee. I had to keep my leg elevated all the time. Putting it down would cause extreme pain and swelling. My mental state was very poor. I was depressed as hell. A week after my injury I met with my doctor and an ankle specialist. They explained the cold hard truth of my injury. I had broken my fibula and tibia. The bottom portion of my tibia was shattered. The ankle specialist said this was one of the worst shattered ankles he had ever seen. I had two metal plates and fifteen screws holding it together. The ankle specialist said I would most likely never be a cop again and probably need an immediate fusion. They had also prepared me for an amputation. I broke down in front of everybody. I felt that my whole life was over. I was extremely worried about supporting my family. I had just adopted a baby girl from China the year before. I did not know what to do. I felt as if everything was out of my control. After the meeting my doctor met with me and said he would get me back on patrol no matter what. He knows what it takes to be a cop. He reassured me that with a fusion or prosthetic leg I could still be a cop. That did not exactly make me feel better.

The doctors told me to go home put my foot up and take my pain medication. That was it. For the first two weeks that was all I could do. The third week of my injury I had to get the cast changed. The ankle specialist decided to remove the stitches against my doctor's advice. The left side of my ankle ripped apart and turned into a giant open wound. What a specialist.

So there I was 37 years old with a life changing injury. The only positive thing was that my department was treating me very well along with workers comp. They told me not to worry about anything and that I had two years "no questions asked" to heal. Before the injury I was an extremely active person. I was an avid cyclist and have played adult baseball for fourteen years. I just never could hang up the spikes. I got into kettlebells about two years ago and was worried that I would never do that again. Watching tv all day was beginning to rot my mind and body. About three weeks into my injury I hobbled out into the garage and sat on my bench. I wanted to workout and felt that it may help me if I just did something. I grabbed a 35lb. kettlebell and pressed it over head. I then did a snatch while also sitting on the bench. It seemed ok. Nothing hurt when I did this. I wasn't sure if snatching was a good idea from a seated position. I did a couple more snatches and presses. I was so worn out that I went to the bed and passed out. My strength and energy levels were below poor. Everything that I gained was now gone.

I placed a message on the Dragon Door Forum. I was seeking information on snatching from a seated position and working out with a broken leg. Pavel responded and gave me the e-mail to Gregor Sobocan. I e-mailed Mr. Sobocan and told him of my injury. About a week later he e-mailed me back. He had broken his leg and trained from a seated position also. He gave me some ideas on how to train, which I really appreciated. It was a simple e-mail response but I think that it ignited me to fight this injury like a war. I began pressing my 35lb kettlebell from my wheel chair while my daughter rode her tricycle in the driveway. I would also race her, which was fun. I began to squat with my left leg and do sit-ups. My strength improved to where I could snatch my 53lb kettlebell from a seated position. It must have looked funny to my neighbors. I was sitting in a wheel chair, with my leg sticking straight, out pressing these black cannon balls. I did not care… I was feeling BETTER. I also did a lot of vibration therapy on my right leg. I thought it might help my bones.

I went in for my 8 week check up. My doctor took an x-ray of my leg. I was not expecting any good news. He began flipping out. He called me over to look at the x-rays. All my bones had come back together. He could not believe it. He told me to continue doing whatever I was doing. I did not tell him anything and just said "ok". My twelve week x-ray went the same way. My doctor was astonished at my recovery. I started to do rehab. They put me in a pool. I was using crutches at this point. They gave me a rubber band and showed me some exercises to do for my ankle. I had been doing these exercises with a 10lb. kettlebell hooked under my toes. The kettlebell resistance felt better so that is what is stuck with. I went in for my 16 week check up and was now walking with a cane. The doctor said the ball was in my court now. He said it was up to my body now to see how far I could go with the recovery. He upgraded my physical therapy to full blown weight training. I was now able to stand up and lift my kettlebells. I had to be extremely careful. I made sure I was tight and rooted when I did the lifts. I was even able to do some double kettlebell exercises. I began riding my bikes again. The first day I hit the trail was very emotional. When you love doing something so much and can't do it the loss you feel is very strong. I still had a lot of pain in my foot but I was moving.

I am currently five months out since my injury. I have just started a work hardening program. I am trying to come back to full duty in six weeks. If I was to rehab the old way (three days a week) it was estimated to take six to eight months before I could return. I was going nuts behind a desk so I asked my supervisors, doctor and workers compensation for this deal. I am going to rehab, everyday. It has become my temporary job. I am lifting kettlebells in the evening. My strength is coming back. I don't know how much my ankle will improve but am giving it my all. I don't want to look back on this and feel I did not try hard enough. This injury will not get better on its own. I have to earn it. One day I may need an ankle fusion but I know I will survive it.

I have learned a lot of lessons in the last five months. I know what REAL pain is. I know how hard it is on the physically challenged and have a deep respect for them now. Getting around in a wheel chair was very difficult. I don't take life for granted now and every mile I ride and every kettlebell I lift since my injury has never felt so good.

People often ask me what I am doing to heal so fast. The answer eventually leads to kettlebells. This then leads into an explanation to what they are. There is something magic in those kettlebells. They can build muscle, burn fat and help heal your body. They helped get my body moving. I don't think I would be walking right now without them.

I will always be a grievik.

Chris Pate