Defeating the Odds

When senior Duane Harvin ran out onto the field Nov. 4, his first thoughts weren’t just about Summerville. Or about the game the teams were getting ready to plan.

It was about return, about hard work — it was about meeting his goal.

“I was so excited to run out and to have everyone in the Chophouse and my family see me run out,” Harvin said. “It was a moment I had been waiting for since May, and it was finally here.”

It had been a long trek since a May 12 when an injury left Harvin with a rare tibial plateau fracture injury.

A rare and very serious injury, the tibial plateau resides at the top of the tibia (shin bone) beneath the patella (kneecap). This area is one of the most critical load bearing areas in the human body, affecting alignment of the knee and stability. The rareness and severity of Harvin’s injury was shocking.

Tibial plateau fractures constitute only approximately one percent of all bone fractures. They are generally career ending injuries, or take up to a year to fully recover and return to play.

The injury happened during spring practice.

“We weren’t supposed to be tackling, but it’s okay,” said Harvin, who was carted to the trainer’s room and then sent to the hospital for X-Rays. “Then I felt it. It hurt, but it didn’t hurt like really bad and then I tried to get up and my knee like shifted then I felt like it got worse. I couldn’t walk. My family was at dinner, so nobody was answering their phones at first so it was just a mess. I was kind of panicked.

“The most difficult part was knowing that I possibly wouldn’t be playing my senior year,” Harvin continued. “I was really upset. I was thinking I might not be able to play again because it’s a very rare injury. They wouldn’t even give me a recovery time because it’s so rare and the time varies so much, so I didn’t know what to expect.”

Harvin’s mother, Monica, a guidance counselor, said the injury was hard for everyone.

“I was really disappointed for him because I know that he truly loves being an athlete,” Mrs. Harvin said.

He underwent surgery on May 16, getting two screws placed in his bone to help stabilize and heal it. Harvin was released to go home shortly after his surgery, but he suffered a setback.

“They released me after surgery when they probably shouldn’t have. Then that night I couldn’t sleep at all and we had to call an ambulance to come pick me up,” he said.

The ambulance rushed Harvin to Roper St. Francis Hospital in Mount Pleasant around 1 a.m. where he was given some medication and released yet again. Around 7 a.m., the pain returned.

“It was hurting so bad I could not control my emotions at all,” he said. “It was the worst pain I had ever felt, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Seeing Duane in that level of pain was difficult for his family to witness. Their usually strong, upbeat and athletic son was struggling like they’d never witnessed before.

“It was awful. I was trying very hard to be strong for him, but when I saw him in that state, which I’ve never seen before, but it was very difficult for me,” Mrs. Harvin said. “I lost it. I’m one of those moms where when my kids are in pain then I’m in pain. I almost felt like I could feel it too.”

He ended up staying over two nights in the hospital to recover. After being released, Harvin was on crutches for two and a half months — almost the entire summer.

“I didn’t start walking again until August,” he said.

It was not an easy recovery, Mrs. Harvin said.

“Duane has always been very active,” she said. “It was very hard for him not being able to get out and go and do things the way he wanted to. It was difficult for him and for us to watch that,” she said.

“Summer was bad, but my friends did a really good job. I can never thank them enough for what they did for me,” Harvin said. “They always helped me and made sure I had what I needed. They would come over for hours and hours just to hang with me when I couldn’t really do anything.”

The timing of the fracture also caused Harvin to miss the last three weeks of his junior year. Therefore, missing all of his exams and not completing the year.

“I had to finish all my classes online. So while recovering during the summer I was still doing classes. I had to do all of my exams, I didn’t finish until like July,” he said. “It was all really draining for me. It might’ve just been a leg injury, but it kind of affected everything.”

Harvin began physical therapy and rehabilitation about 3 weeks after his May 16 surgery.

**“As a mom, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted him to play again, but once I realized that for him it would’ve been more disappointing not to ever play again, then I just decided we’ve got to focus on recovery and rehabilitation to get him back out there as quickly as possible,” Mrs. Harvin said.

He started off with light range of motion exercises and muscle stimulator machines. Once Harvin was able to bend his knee back to 90 degrees, his brace was unlocked and he began light exercise. He then progressed into walking and strengthening exercises. After he was cleared to walk, Harvin began doing outside workouts with his team mates and his dad in addition to physical therapy and practice.

Once he was able to walk, Harvin also attended regular season practices and games, watching and supporting his teammates from the sidelines. He was able to learn a lot about the game from the sideline perspective, but Harvin deeply missed the action of being on the field. Harvin’s

“I really wanted to be in practice with my teammates. Just knowing it was my last year in high school, you know you don’t get that chance again. Once the games started it got worse because I really wished I could play,” Harvin said.

It only took five months, something statistically staggering for his type of injury.

“Most people who have this injury it takes them at least a year usually [to recover] or they don’t play sports at all. But I ended up coming back in five months, which was really good,” Harvin said.

Harvin made his senior year debut playing safety against Summerville on Nov. 4.

“I was nervous, but once I got out there I totally forgot about my injury. They did give me a brace but I decided not to wear it because I didn’t want to think about it [the injury] while I was out there,” Harvin said.

He made sure his return was a grand one, coming out with a huge hit against a Summerville receiver.

“So the play before that I had messed up, but the coaches didn’t take me out, they left me in there. So the next play I was like ‘Alright I gotta do something big.’ So I go back to my usual position and I see the guy running and I read the quarterback’s shoulder and just came up and made the hit,” he said.

Wando ended up defeating Summerville 51-49 after a quintuple overtime.

Missing most of his senior season hasn’t dimmed the Harvin’s outlook on his future football career. He wants to play in college.

“I am still looking at being recruited. Fortunately for me the coaches are still looking at me even though I didn’t play much this year,” Harvin said.

For Harvin, being an athlete is part of him, something no injury could take out of him.

“I’ve been playing football since I was five. I just really love it,” he said. “It’s taught me that I need to work hard. Also to be thankful for every time I’m out there on the field, and to be careful.”