Linfield Christian School football player Alex Ruiz suffered a traumatic injury while playing the game that would forever change his life and leave him with a tough decision: Whether to keep his leg and live with limited mobility, or to amputate for a chance at a more active life.
After consulting with a close network of friends and family members, the teen made the choice to amputate and live with a prosthetic.
“You never really think you’re going to go through life being an amputee,” Ruiz said, “but I think it was just time to really think about what was the best option for me going forward and what was the best option for me to continue to do the things I like to do.”
The quarterback was injured Oct. 6 facing the Ontario Knights during an away game. He had the option to keep the ball or throw it to a teammate and chose to keep it. That’s when he got caught up with some blockers and pushed back.
In an attempt to step over a player, Ruiz hyperextended his right leg, causing his knee to dislocate, tearing multiple ligaments and dissecting the popliteal lining that provides blood flow to his lower leg. The accident caused permanent damage below his knee.
It took doctor’s some time to determine how the teen was injured.
“At first they didn’t really know,” Ruiz said. “They just thought it was knee dislocation, so they put it back into place and then they realized there was no pulse in my foot so they rushed me to a different hospital and got me into surgery 10 hours after my injury.”
Ruiz said doctors told him he was lucky to keep his foot, but that he would likely never have motor function, never have sensation and never be able to move his foot without the help of a special boot he would need to wear.
The teen — an avid football player, baseball player, and member of his student body — said that being active had always been an important part of his life and he wanted to continue to be active.
“That was practically the breaking point, was I wanted to be able to run,” he said.
Ruiz said he’s going to have to go through several surgeries in the coming months, including getting skin grafts to close up his wounds, fasciotimies to increase the blood flow in his leg, possible knee reconstruction and the eventual amputation.
The quarterback said he’s grateful to have had such a large support network, from his parents, friends and Coach DeChon Burns, to people he’s never met before.
“I can’t explain how much they’ve helped,” he said. “Seeing the support from not only my inside community and close friends, but people I never even knew or people who never even knew me or heard of me, they want to be interested in me and figure out what’s going on with me and ask how I’m doing.”
Alex’s mom, Shirley Ruiz, said she at first was against the idea of her son having his leg amputated. But now, having accepted it, she sees her son as an inspiration to others to “keep looking forward.”
“We were talking about the amputation and it was a hard conversation,” she said, “And he said, ‘I don’t see it as losing something of mine, I see it as gaining an opportunity to do the things I really love to do.’”
Ruiz said he’s looking forward to being able to do things and try new things once he’s recovered from surgeries. But for now, he’s taking things one day at a time.
“Waking up every day, yeah I have my bad days and good days,” he said. “But as long as I have more good days than bad days, then I’m all right.”
Article contributions made by Valley News Assistant Editor, Alex Groves.