Road to Recovery Part 1

Christmas Eve gained a new meaning for me after 2016. That was the day I ruptured my brachial plexus (branch of nerves in the neck) on the football field, paralyzing my right arm and ending my football career. It was one thing losing the sport that I loved, but on top of that, I had to deal with a huge change in my life physically. Being an athlete, I found my enjoyment in being active but with my arm now being paralyzed, I couldn’t be as active as I once was. Not only that, I’m dealing with severe pain. Nerve Pain. Pain that the traditional pain killers didn’t help with. I remember the day I got injured, the team doc gave me morphine and it did absolutely nothing for the pain. That's when I knew this was gonna be hell. My doctor prescribed a pain killer that helps with nerve pain. The medicine they gave me made me sleepy so when I took it, I would sleep all day. So I decided to stop taking it because I felt like I was wasting my life away. Just a couple months ago, I was on the field leading the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs. The only thing that helped me was weed but that just kept my mind off everything. The nerve pain became a part of my daily life for almost 2 years.

To get any use in my arm again, I had to have a very complicated surgery. My doctor would have to take working nerves from my chest and my ribs to replace the nerves that were dead in my arm. At first, my doctor scheduled the surgery for 6 weeks after I got the diagnosis. I was not ready for that. I was just coming to grips with losing my career and once I lay on that table, I knew there was no way to get out on the field. I talked to my doctor and asked if we can push back the surgery. He explained to me that there is a small window in which one can fix this injury. Without surgery, After 6 months, there would be no chance my arm would work again. With the surgery, there was a chance my arm would restore some function but it's not guaranteed that the surgery would be successful.

My doctor and I decided to push back the surgery to about a month before the 6-month window was closed. One reason was to see what nerves would wake up before the surgery but the main reason was to give me time to wrap my head around this. Everything happened so fast. I was just playing football and one hit later, I can’t anymore. I built my life around football so it was gonna take time for me to be okay with all of this. Not only can I not play football, but all physical activities were also taken from me. I couldn’t rehab to get better, I couldn’t play basketball, work out, anything. So for the time being up to my surgery, I spent most of my time on the couch in my own head.

Up until the surgery, I kept thinking I would make a miraculous recovery and we can cancel the surgery and I can play football again. Each day that passed, some of my hope went with it. By the time the date of the surgery arrived, I had to accept my fate. My career was officially over now and my hope and prayers went to healing my arm.

I was scheduled to come in early in the morning for the surgery. That entire drive to the hospital felt surreal. The day finally came and I didn’t know how to feel. Part of me wanted the impossible to happen so I can play football again, the other part of me just wanted my arm back. By the time I got on the table and they started to administer anesthesia, I looked at the clock and it was a little before 8 am. The next thing I remember is being in the recovery room with my family around me. I ask what time it is and it's 9:30 PM! The surgery took 13.5 hours. The good thing was that the surgery was successful. I had to stay in the hospital for 2 nights then I was allowed to go home. Now I start my long road to recovery.

To Be Continued...

Isa Abdul-Quddus is a former NFL Athlete, playing 6 years at safety for the Saints, Lions and Dolphins. After suffering a career ending injury, he took his focus to sharing his story, emphasizing on mental health. Isa also loves music (Hip Hop and R&B), film and reading.