COSTA MESA, Calif. — Right here was this native California child, strolling with some assist however nonetheless strolling into the native California staff’s apply space sporting his black New Orleans Saints jersey with the gold No. 9 on it.
This marks two conferences now, so the best way Alex Ruiz sees it, he and Saints quarterback Drew Brees aren’t simply acquaintances, they’re buddies. However as quickly as he mentioned these phrases, they sunk in.
“It is sort of cool,” mentioned Ruiz, the man who wore No. 9 as a highschool quarterback and had a shrine devoted to Brees in his bed room earlier than all this began. “Properly, not sort of cool, it is actually cool.”
That is the a part of the story the place it must be mentioned that, if he had his method, Ruiz would have most likely slightly by no means met Brees if it meant he by no means needed to undergo his ordeal that left him along with his proper leg amputated under the knee.
His world took a pointy and unwelcome detour. However due to his idol and a few assist from native group Challenged Athletes Basis, Ruiz is on the trail to be again and working on his personal two ft — even when they don’t seem to be the ft he was born with.
Ruiz was saved at midnight concerning the underlying objective of their first assembly just a few months in the past at one in every of Brees’ Soccer ‘N’ America flag soccer tournaments in southern California. He didn’t even know he was going to fulfill Brees that day. The primary phrase his idol ever mentioned to him was, “Shock!”
In Brees’ fingers at that second: A prosthetic leg that now belonged to Ruiz.
Within the phrases that adopted “Shock!”: A promise that later, when Ruiz mastered his new instrument, Brees would comply with by way of with a extra superior prosthetic that might permit Ruiz to run round like he did when he was sporting his personal No. 9 jersey taking part in quarterback for his highschool staff.
He was beginning at that place in his junior yr at Linfield Christian in Temecula — roughly midway between San Diego and the Chargers facility in Costa Mesa. Final October, in a recreation in opposition to Ontario Christian, catastrophe struck when he was tackled on a learn choice keeper.
His proper leg hyperextended and his knee dislocated, the kind of damage that required an ambulance journey straight from the sphere to the native hospital. Ruiz’s knee was put again into place, however medical doctors realized the blood movement was lower off fully under his proper knee, and Ruiz was transferred to close by Loma Linda Medical Middle.
Ruiz went 11 hours with out blood attending to his decrease leg. When he first boarded the ambulance, he figured he was a reasonably simple medical process involving a knee brace and a visit to the physician within the morning.
“However then they transferred me,” Ruiz mentioned. “I stayed just a few nights, and some nights changed into every week, every week changed into a pair weeks. Yeah, it was not enjoyable.”
Ruiz spent six weeks at Loma Linda. The medical staff there saved his leg initially, however couldn’t get every thing to work once more.
“They gave it just a few months, and I did not have any motion come again,” Ruiz mentioned. “February got here alongside and we determined to amputate. And yeah, that is the place we went from there.”
Saturday, earlier than the Saints play the Chargers in a preseason recreation, Brees and Ruiz will meet a 3rd time on the sphere earlier than the sport begins. They’re on a first-name foundation now. Their friendship began when Brees heard a few child out in California by way of the Challenged Athletes Basis (CAF).
That group’s roots are in tales like these. Its co-founder, Bob Babbitt, mentioned he and a buddy began CAF when 25 years in the past once they came upon medical health insurance would cowl an every-day prosthetic leg, however not one designed to assist athletes like Ruiz run once more. These, Babbitt mentioned, are thought-about luxurious gadgets.
“Myself and two shut buddies determined to guarantee that if somebody turned injured and wanted a chunk of adaptive sports activities tools to remain within the recreation of life by way of sport, CAF would all the time be there,” Babbitt mentioned in an electronic mail. “Since then we’ve despatched out over 23,000 grants and raised north of $100 million.”
Ruiz is strolling once more. Brees and CAF wish to get him working.
The devastating blow leveled at Ruiz has not diminished his upbeat demeanor.
Although he’s briefly unable to make use of his prosthesis due to a latest surgical procedure, Ruiz, on crutches, led Linfield Christian out of the tunnel when it lately opened its 2018 season. He was not in a position to be on the sphere, however perhaps sometime quickly he’ll.
His hope, with the assistance of individuals like Brees and organizations like Challenged Athletes, is to regain some sense of normalcy by doing the issues he likes to do. He needs to play soccer and baseball once more. He needs to be a child whereas he nonetheless has some childhood left.
“Get again to a standard life-style, going out, having enjoyable with my buddies, doing younger, dumb, silly stuff,” Ruiz mentioned.
Brees and CAF serving to make that doable by masking the price of a sophisticated prosthetic is large.
But it surely additionally helps when Brees says stuff like this to him: “He instructed me that nothing goes to cease me from doing what I wish to do. Life does not finish right here. He inspired me in that method.”
In any case, that’s what buddies do.