Just four months prior to the 2005 USA Roller Sports National meet, James Johnson was fully released from a serious neck injury and major vertebra surgery.
In October 2004, while jumping on a trampoline with a safety net, James got his feet caught in the net doing a back flip and plummeted straight down on his head injuring his neck. After a few days of tests it was determined that James suffered from sublexation of cervical vertebras five and six. In other words, two of his neck bones were over-lapped on one side. The serious and scary part was finding out that if both sides had crossed, James, like Christopher Reeves, would have been a quadraplegic for life.
James had to wear a neck brace before and several months after his December surgery. The fusion surgery lasted about five hours. First they cut a three inch vertical incision on the back of his neck to untangle the vertebra. Then they very carefully flipped him over on his back where they did a horizontal cut on the right side of his neck. After that they took out his cartilage between the vertebra and inserted some cadaver bone chips (these chips aid the vertebra to eventually grow together into one bone). Last they used four titanium screws to attach a one square inch titanium plate over both vertebras. He wasn’t allowed to run, jump, hop, skip or go out in the rain, even to go to school. Doesn’t sound too bad? Have you ever tried to keep a 12 year old athletic boy calm and quiet?
In February, one week before Gold Skate (an annual roller sports show competition held in Fresno, California) James was finally able to take off his neck brace except when riding in a car or skating - no jumping. So, he participated in his club’s Latin Fiesta group number wearing his neck brace.
Late in March, he was fully released from the neck brace, the restrictions, the endless pain and the doctors. Straight from the doctors office he went to the rink. Within minutes he was on the floor jumping and landing Axels, double Mapes (toe loop) and double Salchows. In less than ten minutes his muscles fatigued.
Five months ago we didn‚t know if James would ever skate again, let alone skate this season. Now, it would be a race to see if he could get in shape fast enough to skate before the end of the season.
James participated in six events at the 2005 National Championship that year; Elementary Singles, Senior Precision Team, Junior Precision Team, Elementary Dance, . His Junior Precision Team won, he and his partner Alyson Telford placed third in Team Dance and he placed second in the men’s World Class Inline Singles... qualifying him for the World Championship in Rome, Italy.
Not too bad - Maybe a miracle!