THEY CALL HIM SIMBA: Connor Livingston's Road To Recovery & Relentless Pursuit Of Excellence
Every once in a while there's that special player that walks into your life & selfishly, you think to yourself.....Man, this kid is going to inspire me more than I will ever be able to inspire anyone and not because he is the most talented player on the field but because he is the BEST person on the field!"
Meet 13 year old Connor Livingston. He's that player and his story is nothing short of inspirational!
I first met Connor back in 2015 when we started working together in the cages. You know that feeling you get as a coach when you just know that your paths with a certain player has crossed for a greater purpose, not just to help a kid out in the cages? Well, for me that player was Connor Livingston. From the minute I met him, he inspired me to smile more. He inspired me to enjoy every minute I spent in the cages training young athletes. He reinforced my "why" and made me want to be a better person.
It wasn't until a few weeks after we started working together that I learned about Connor's story and what he was battling just one short year ago! It's a story of perseverance & courage. A story that really made me think about the influence I have on young athletes lives. A story that really put life into perspective for me & helped me realize that baseball is just a game and the character foundation that FullReps helps build for these athletes goes way beyond a game!
Our FullReps PT Bob Gorinski says it best in his ALWAYS REPPIN' Blog article...."Do you see that FullReps has never been about distance or degrees of an exercise? Without developing character, any success, however we choose to define it, will be short-lived and shallow. We represent our tribe, our family, and ourselves in every circumstance and at all times. All athletes (and especially coaches and parents) would do well to remember that we are literally Always Reppin’"
At the age of 10, Connor was diagnosed with Perthes Hip Disorder, a condition where the top of the thigh bone in the hip joint (the femoral head) loses its blood supply causing the bone to die. In just a few short weeks, Connor's life was turned upside down as he and his family realized that his hip bone was slowly deteriorating. A devastating discovery for any 10 year old and their family but the amazing part of it all was Connor's ability to never lose his smile and come back stronger than ever!
On Oct 8th 2014, Connor went under the knife for surgery. Connor was to have an aggressive surgery called a Hip Distraction with an external Fixator. This type of surgery was no walk in the park and entailed multiple different procedures. This was the start of Connor's relentless pursuit of excellence both on and off the field and made him realize that anything in life is possible!
The first procedure prior to going under was to perform an Arthorgram (injecting dye into the hip joint). The dye would coat the cartilage and allow the true shape of the cartilaginous part of the femoral head to be seen and examined under x-rays. Next, they needed to perform a Core Decompression and Injection. This is where the Dr. took a sample of Connor's own bone stem cells and injected them into his femoral head (hip bone) to stimulate the blood flow to the bone and allow the hip bone to regenerate itself. In order for this regeneration process to occur, Connor had pins fused into his leg supported by a metal brace called an External Fixator that was worn for 4 months. The brace enabled the hip joint to open up and allow the healing process to happen quicker. Connor was required to stay in Baltimore for 3 weeks, post surgery, for intensive PT which meant he was going to be out of school for 4 months. Shortly after surgery, he began some school instructions at the Ronald McDonald House in which stayed at until he was able to return home. The recovery process took nearly 12 Months!
Just a day before surgery, Connor's loving mom Allison writes "Connor seems calm, cool and collect. He even met a friend with Perthes who had surgery 2 weeks ago....instant friends"
When talking about his new friend, Connor said "Martin, is the kind of friend I will never forget." Despite Connor's own struggles & fears of surgery, he managed to help encourage the life of another young kid who had just recently gone through the same vigorous surgery that he was about to go through the very next day. But again, Connor wasn't scared and he certainly was not thinking of himself, he was thinking of others which is what makes this kid so special!
The night before the big surgery, Connor turned to his mom and said "Mom, let's just do this and get it over with." His attitude was very positive and he never lost sight of what was truly important to him to him in life.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
After 4 1/2 hours of surgery, Connor's family finally got the call from Dr. that all went well! But this was just the start of a very long & gruesome recovery process.
The things we take for granted every day such as walking, going to the bathroom, sleeping comfortably, showering on your own, getting dressed etc. were all things that were taken away from Connor but he didn't seem to let it phase him. He knew he was going to have a long road ahead of him but he also knew that he was going to work as hard as he could to learn to walk again and one day be able to take the field and return to playing the game of baseball!
3 days post surgery, he got himself up out of bed and took 6 small steps to his wheelchair (all with minimal assistance!!). Just to give you an idea of how much work it was for him to do that, it took approx. 15 minutes to get out of bed and walk those 6 steps. Each day was a struggle but Connor continued to defy all odds while keeping that huge smile on his face. His desire to get better is something his parents describe as "unthinkable". The kid never stopped! His determination to get better was non-negotiable!
Connor spent the next 4 months with an external fixator attached to his hip going back and forth to PT sessions and doctors visits in an effort to learn how to walk again!
“Excellence is simply a projection of ones willingness to be great”
Connor taking his first steps just weeks after surgery on his own without a walker!
Sleep deprivation, epidurals, extreme pain, getting dressed on your own, showering, aqua therapy etc. are not common things that most 10 year olds ever have to think about but for Connor they were terms that surrounded his everyday for over a year.
You see, baseball is just a GAME! What Connor went through is called LIFE! Striking out 3 times in a game sucks but it is not going to change your life! In situations like these, It is so easy to give up and lose hope. It's especially easy to give up chasing a dream when times get tough, but giving up for Connor was simply never an option!
BACK TO BEING A KID AGAIN AND PLAYING THE GAME HE LOVES!
Connor's approach & mindset when training is very much like the one he took when he went through his surgery. The process in which he created and principles he instilled in his everyday made him the person that he is today. His “willingness” to get better is the key ingredient to his success!
Players like Connor are the reason you wake up every morning & love every minute of what you do. These players are constantly running towards their dreams life and in the process develop a special meaning in life. These players do what they say they are going to do 90% of the time and because of that will be GREAT! These players are unstoppable & take advantage of every opportunity. These players are not only great players but great people!
From the moment Connor walks into the facility to the moment he leaves, you can't help but just want to hang out with him the entire time. The kid is wise beyond his years & his personality permeates excitement!! He is diligent in his business, is willing to overcome any obstacle & I have honestly never met someone who is Happy 100% of the time.
4 years after his traumatic surgery, Connor is shattering PR's in the weight room and breaking velocity records by a landslide and not because he is the best athlete in the room but because he is a FULLREPS kind of dude! The dude who doesn't hear you when you say "it cant be done". He strives for greatness and keeps going even when he fails to reach his goals. He is hungry for success every minute of every day!! He isn't afraid to be judged by his peers & he always celebrates teammates success just as much as his own. Connor Livingston has that "Flame" inside of him that not many people have.
Just remember one thing. In life there are sequential stages of growth and development. A child learns to turn over, to sit up, to crawl, to walk and then run. Each step is important and takes time. No step can be skipped! The same applies for top level performers & top level PEOPLE like Connor!
Connor Pulling down 71.1 MPH on 1/19/18 (a 6MPH increase in velo from early October!)
Because we are all connected on a cellular level, you have the power to reach inside yourself and tap into those parts of you that house the instincts, characteristics & abilities of a LION! but again this is a choice and very few actually decide to go down this road! Connor’s story of where he was and where he is now is the greatest example of "anything in life is possible". Just this year, Connor earned the nickname of "Simba"around the facility being the youngest player in our arm care program & trust me this wasn't a coincidence......
Connor might be the smallest & youngest dude in our FullReps Arm Care Program but his heart, energy, excitement, courage, focus, playfulness, diligence & “desire” to get better makes him the biggest most baddest person in the entire facility!! Connor Livingston is a LION!!!
The smile in the picture to the right says it all!
Connor, Thank you for being you and inspiring our FullReps Staff, Members & Families each and every time you walk into the facility! You are truly an inspiration to all
and we all cannot wait to see what the future
holds for you!
DREAM BIG. WORK HARD. STAY HUMBLE.