Steve Beard doesn’t want or expect anyone’s sympathy.
The Woodstock football coach realizes a lot of people don’t care about his physical maladies, which have been considerable since December.
“Nobody wants to talk about me being hurt,” Beard said. “They just want our football team and softball team to get better. And I agree.”
Still, Beard, a 1992 Woodstock graduate and three-sport star for the Blue Streaks, has endured a lot over the past eight months. Nothing life-threatening, but plenty of discomfort, several surgeries and missing the second half of the softball season, in which he also is head coach.
Beard might be one of the happiest people in McHenry County to simply be wearing a pair of shoes as football practices start Monday. He has spent more time with his left leg on a scooter or in a stability boot the past seven months than he cares to recall.
Friday, Dec. 13 turned out to be an extremely unlucky day for Beard, who was about 45 minutes into playing basketball when he made a pass and went for a rebound. It was a move he had made countless times in his life, only this time the Achilles tendon in his left foot ruptured.
What transpired over the next few months was frustrating, maddening and debilitating.
Beard underwent surgery Dec. 23. Normally, orthopaedic surgeons can reattach Achilles tendons without incident. Six months later, patients are able to return to activity.
Yet less than three weeks later, Beard knew something wasn’t right. When he returned to the doctor, he learned an infection had developed. That meant three weeks of antibiotics, then a skin culture from the spot of the injury, which doctors then watch to see if the spot still is infected.
It was, which meant more antibiotics. For 21 days, Beard had a PICC line, a peripherally inserted central catheter, which fed antibiotics within 5 centimeters of his heart. A third surgery indicated he still was infected.
Then, after he finally underwent another reconstruction, Beard again had to fight an infection.
“It was a mess, man,” he said. “It was just a mess.”
Assistant coach Jenn Koeser took over the softball team in May, while Beard spent 15 days at Rush University Medical Center and had three surgeries in seven days.
Beard used a scooter for his left leg for a while. Until recently, he wore a boot, although it was a recent victory when he ditched it for his left shoe. He still is seeing a plastic surgeon who closed the wound after his May surgery. There is a hole in the back of his leg the surgeon is trying to close.
The injury hindered Beard’s ability to coach his team in summer workouts. In the past, he could have jumped in and displayed the arm that got him drafted for baseball and earned him an NCAA Division I football scholarship to Northern Iowa.
After seeing doctors during his recovery, Beard feels he was too trustworthy. He urges anyone to get a second and third opinion before surgery.
“I know why they refer to doctors as ‘practicing medicine,’ ” he said.
But he feels the worst is behind him now. He feels fortunate it was his left leg because he still can drive. And Monday’s first day of practice always gets everyone excited.
“I’ll be glad to have two shoes and not one boot,” he said.
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.