COLUMN: One bad ankle and two inspirational reality checks

Dennis Dumler, Local Perspective

I recently underwent reconstructive surgery on my right ankle. I was born with a very weak pair of ankles and throughout my life I have endured sprains too numerous to count. Some were suffered while playing sports, but I could trip over a thick blade of grass and hit the ground in pain.

So, after way too long a wait, I did something about it. Dr Eric Nillson at the renowned Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze could not fuse the bones together as he had hoped because the inside was “mush” (the medical term he used to describe what he found to my little Margie). Instead, screws were used to hold whatever was left together. Part of the outside of the bone was shaved off. I was in a cast for six weeks and just last week got a

“walking boot” which allows me some freedom but still keeps everything in place until I can start physical therapy in three weeks.

The great staff at The Andrews Clinic could not have been better but I still have been in a lot of pain for quite some time now. But it all got so much better this past Thursday thanks to two semi-related events.

That morning I read a story in the Daily News about a softball team comprised of veterans and active duty members of the military who have lost limbs while serving their country. Yes, a softball team! I had seen something of this bunch on TV a few months ago, and I was thrilled to learn that they were going to be in Destin on Nov. 3 for a double header event at the Morgan Sports Center at 2 and 5 in the afternoon. I made plans right then and there to attend.

These are young men who are not looking at their physical situation as handicaps, but rather an opportunity to view it as something of a blessing. A chance to show others how to fight adversity and try to overcome setbacks. They do it through speaking engagements as well as the performance on the playing field against able-bodied teams. They want to get on with their lives — lives that were changed forever while serving their country.

The other thing that happened to me came in the pregame ceremony at Game 2 of the World Series that night. Major League Baseball took the opportunity to honor many former players who had served in World War 2 and a few who had served in other conflicts since. It was a touching tribute, but then came a moment that will be forever engraved in my memory.

Marine Cpl. Nicholas Kimmel was a good enough high school baseball player to be offered a scholarship to Arizona State University. He chose instead to enlist in the Marine Corp. He was in his second tour in Afghanistan when a bomb explosion took both legs and his right arm. That was last December. He is undergoing treatment and rehab in San Diego.

On Thursday, he was center stage in San Francisco. He walked for the first time without using a wheelchair to the pitcher’s mound. In full dress uniform, Nick Kimmel threw the ceremonial first pitch. It was a strike! Boy, was it!

I sat in my chair and bawled like a baby.

I cried because of the courage that I had just witnessed. I will probably do so again when I go to that softball game on Saturday. I hope that there will be thousands of others there with me to cheer on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. Thanks to them and Cpl. Nicholas Kimmel, my ankle doesn’t hurt at all anymore.

Dennis Dumler is a Miramar Beach resident.