Riley High School basketball player Gabe Johnson has one thing on his mind.
“Well, obviously, we always have one goal here at South Bend Riley,” Johnson said. “That’s to get down and play at Banker’s Life [for the state championship]. That’s our goal. Sectional championships, regional championships, we’ve done that. We’ve got to get over the hump.”
But Johnson has already got over a hump -- one that almost changed his life forever.
“It means a lot to me to be able to still play the game that I love, considering what happened,” Johnson said.
In June of 2016, Johnson was playing in an AAU tournament in Cincinnati. He collided with an opposing player after a layup and could not get up. Right away, Johnson knew something was wrong.
“This was unbearable pain,” Johnson said. “Like, I've broken ankles, torn Achilles, all types of things, and this was a different kind of pain. I couldn't manage it on my own.”
His parents took him to Memorial Hospital after coming home from the basketball tournament. Immediately, the doctors knew it was serious.
“The orthopedic surgeon came in and kind of set the scenario for us,” said Johnson’s mother, Estelle Holloway. “The long story short is he said, ‘There's a significant possibility that he could lose the leg.' And I said, 'Lose the leg? What are we talking about here?'”
Johnson had developed a major blood clot in his upper thigh. He went into surgery that night and it was successful. The doctors told his family had they waited another 24 hours, they would have amputated his leg.
For the next two and a half months, Johnson’s sole focus was getting back on the court again.
“It was a difficult process, but I just embraced where I wanted to get back,” Johnson said.
Johnson knew he was back to his old self when he was able to dunk again.
“It was like, yeah, I can do this,” Johnson said. “I can do this again. It just was like a breath of fresh air.”
And when Johnson played in his first game in November of 2016, it was an emotional night.
“I was happy to be able to get those competitive juices flowing again and I actually went home and cried happy tears,” Johnson said.
“Just to see him up and you know able to do all of the things that he loves to do, there's nothing like it in the world.”
The blood clot left Johnson with a scar the entire length of his thigh, but, most importantly, it made him cherish every moment.
“Every day when I wake up and my feet hit the floor, I thank God for still being here because there was a possibility that I could've either died or lost my leg,” Johnson said. “I thank him every day to be able to even walk or run and be able to do things that people take for granted every day.”