EA’s comeback kid

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Escambia Academy Cougars linebacker Braxton Chastang overcame a devastating injury that almost took his leg one year ago. Chastang was at one point told his leg might have to be amputated, but pushed past the odds and is playing during his senior season for the Cougars.

Braxton Chastang had already sat out the first eight games of his junior season with the Escambia Academy Cougars last year with a shoulder injury.

But the day after the linebacker’s first full game back, a freak accident threatened more than just his playing time.

“I was working and a big brick mailbox fell on my leg,” Chastang said.

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The enormous weight broke Chastang’s femur, separating it from the other bones.

“Then when they rolled it off of me, it separated all of the bones in my ankles,” he said. “My leg then set into compartment syndrome where my leg became swollen and they thought they might have to take my leg. I just thank God that they didn’t have to.”

Following the accident, Chastang was rushed to the hospital, where he went through surgery and began preparing for the long road to recovery.

The surgery was nothing compared to the physical toll of his later therapy.

Working out the kinks in his leg, so he could have a chance to walk, was the biggest obstacle, Chastang said.

“I had my surgery and they placed a rod along with a couple of screws in my leg,” he said. “Therapy was rough. I went every day and had to do stretching everyday because my achilles tendon was so tight. After Istretched, they would put me on a machine where I would I do leg extensions to help me get walking again. Therapy was really the hardest thing I actually had to go through.”

At the same time, Chastang faced a mental battle when one doctor’s diagnosis threatened to change his life forever.

“The scariest part of the whole ordeal was when they told me that they might have to amputate my leg,” he said. “The first doctor told me that I would be walking in three days, but the next doctor told me that they might have to amputate, which  was the worst part of it all.”

The accident and injury also put a scare into the man who walks the sidelines and coaches Chastang each and every week.

Escambia Academy head coach Heath Gibson was glad to have Chastang back on the field the night before his accident, but the news he received the next day he did not expect.

The health issues that Chastang would have to overcome were the first things that popped into his head, Gibson said.

“The biggest concern I had was for his health,” he said. “At first, we didn’t know how bad it was going to be, but he overcame that. Then he wound up going through some bad issues with the circulation in the leg, so we were concerned about him losing the leg. He fought through and battled the pain and now he is where he is today.”

Once Chastang worked through the chances of amputation and began therapy, he set his sights on being able to live his life like a normal teenager.

Walking was the first thing on his list, followed by whatever other things he might want do, he said.

“My main goal was to walk and be able to do normal things again,” he said. “Being able to play football and other sports was just a blessing that came with it all. Just a miracle from God.”

Now a year later, Chastang is starting on the Cougars defense and making plays each and every down.

Seeing one of his players back on the field after such an obstacle is a great moment, Gibson said.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Makes me proud to know that we have kids who have are mentally and physically tough enough to overcome something like that and have the desire to work hard enough to overcome it.”

For Chastang, receiving this second chance is something he does not take lightly.

Every game he plays is something he is thankful for and he makes sure he does give the right thanks, he said.

“It’s been the greatest feeling in the world,” he said. “I thank God every day for it because I shouldn’t even be out there playing. It’s the most amazing feeling knowing that I get to go out there and play.”