The Student News Site of Marist High School

MHS Media

MHS Media

MHS Media

One Foot in Front of the Other

Marist Junior Jake Frederking is back in action after struggling with a diagnosis that temporarily robbed his ability to get around. MHS Media Editor Hayden Krupa takes us inside the world of CRPS.
Jake ringing the graduation bell at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab

It’s a sunny September day, and a stiff breeze cools the droplets of sweat on a runner’s body. Locked into his own reality, one foot in front of the other, pushing himself to his limits. The runner’s high is indescribable; it’s a flow state, a tunnel vision, just keep placing one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right, left… stop. A confused Jake Frederking pauses as a sharp pain shoots up from his ankle through his right leg. A glance down reveals the perpetrator to be an uncovered sewer cap left in the middle of the track.

An athlete’s worst fear is injury; their greatest nightmare is weakness. Just keep going, get one foot in front of the other. Left, right… left, right… left, right… Just keep pushing.

Competing while injured is a thing of legends. Michael Jordan’s “flu game,” Curt Schilling’s “bloody sock game,” for example, illustrate how sports are about guts and glory. Jake was going to hobble to this finish line if it was the last thing he did.

But, it had gotten to be too much.

Jake had valiantly run two miles on his injured ankle, but that Saturday morning, his ankle had bested him and left him with a Did Not Finish.

Jake hobbled to the hospital to reveal a high ankle sprain to be the cause of his trifling. A disappointing way to begin the season for this varsity athlete, but a four to six week recovery left him yearning for his return. It’s a simple recovery really, every day he gets better.

“Just don’t put too much pressure on it and he should be back in no time,” he thought. However, the pain was getting worse, his brace became a boot. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, but he simply could not. This mysterious high ankle sprain had now left Jake homebound, unable to walk, to drive, to merely travel to school. 

Mid-September brought Jake his first emergency room visit at Lurie Children’s Hospital, still under the belief that an ankle sprain was the cause of his problems, the doctors came up empty handed.

More time passed, and more pain took over Jake’s life. Just keep pushing, get one foot in front of the other, left, right… NO! Jake’s head banged against the wall, his elbow against the handrail, his leg against the ground. A topple down the stairs brought Jake to his second ER, this time at Palos Hospital. Yet again however, his doctors remained unsure of the root of his pains.

Having gone too far now, it was decided by the Frederking family that it was time to take action and figure out what was causing Jake’s torment.

Tests, tests, and more tests. Tests on his back, on his spine, on his legs, something had to show up. An EMG, or an Electromyography which assesses muscle and nerve health, revealed Jake was unable to feel any of the provided stimulus in his leg.

This test eventually led Jake to a plastic surgeon. Tired of the tests, tired of not knowing what was happening to him, he finally got an answer.

“I believe you to have a rare nerve condition called CRPS,” the surgeon informed Jake. “Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome.”

Unsure of the details of this diagnosis, Jake would search on google for more information to his horror revealing descriptors such as, “the most painful syndrome known to man,” and “the suicide syndrome.”

Furthermore, his testing was able to reveal three compressed nerves within his leg. This as well as an abnormally high heart rate led Jake back to the ER once more.

Having finally reached a diagnosis, this was still only the beginning of Jake’s journey. He was soon able to begin physical therapy, and it was nothing short of rough to begin. At this point in Jake’s journey, a stiff gust of wind against his leg was enough to invoke screaming pain.

“Jake, we’ve done all we think we can do for you here at Lurie’s,”  the doctor said to him. Jake’s rare condition was beyond the equipment and expertise at Lurie’s Hospital; he was then informed that he would be transferring to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, one of the top injury rehabs in Illinois, to continue his treatment.

With his CRPS continuing to worsen, it had spread from his ankle throughout his whole right leg leaving Jake wheelchair-bound, unable to put any pressure on the leg.

Drugged up on all the pain meds imaginable, Jake pushed onwards striving every day to get better. The nerve damage had gotten so bad at this point that Jake would need to learn how to walk again, and hope was thin.

“Jake, we’re not sure if you will ever be able to run again, let alone compete,”  explained a doctor at Shirley Ryan, “For the time being it’s best to focus on getting you walking again, baby steps, one foot in front of the other.”

Being a runner at heart, Jake was understandably displeased by this news, but his spirit never broke and he wavered onwards.

One foot in front of the other, that was all he needed to do. 150 feet of walking was the goal set for him before he could leave Shirley Ryan.

That following Monday it was time.

Out of his wheelchair he began: left, right, left, right, left, right, just one foot in front of the other. The pain shot up his leg, but nothing could break his determination. This was going to be his first big step towards recovery, all the pain, all the agony, this was the beginning of the end, left, right, left, right, left, right.

Jake finished his walk and sat down.

“Five hundred feet,” the doctor said in disbelief. “You walked 500 feet.”

Unbelievably, Jake had just crushed the goal set for him. He still had a long road in front of him, but after so much losing this was it, this was finally a win.

On October 27, 2023, Jake was released from Shirley Ryan, still with a long way to go. An ultrasound revealed he still had compressed nerves, and surgery was required to fix them.

On December 7, 2023, surgery came and went. Jake remained in a wheelchair, walking short distances at physical therapy. Still doctors remained pessimistic of his ability to run.

Jake in the hospital directly after his surgery to repair his compressed nerves

In and out of physical therapy, months had passed now, and Jake grew tired of this restricting life. Finally in late December, he began to walk freely once more, living his life wheelchair free for short periods of time when he could.

From a wheelchair to a walker to a cane, slowly but surely Jake regained his ability to walk, and by the end of January of 2024, he dropped the cane completely.

Back in school, back to a relatively normal life, Jake continued to make progress. By the end of February he was jogging again, and he continued to look more hopeful for the upcoming track season.

It’s a chilly April evening, the sun setting in the distance, the lights beating down on the track. Locked into his own reality, one foot in front of the other, pushing himself to his limits. The runner’s high is indescribable, it’s a flow state, a tunnel vision, just keep placing one foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right, left, right. After months of recovery Jake was running his first race since his injury. Doctors said it was impossible, the odds were slim to none, but Jake persevered. Jake will live with CRPS for the rest of his life, with good days and bad, but it continues to get better with every passing moment. Every step he takes is one step further from the syndrome that imprisoned him, one step closer to being the best runner he can become.  It all simply starts with one foot in front of the other.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Hayden Krupa
Hayden Krupa, Editor in Chief/Journalism 2 Writer
I am Hayden Krupa, Senior at Marist. This is my 2nd year as a writer and 1st as an editor for MHS Media. I plan to major in sports journalism and I dream to one day cover Chicago sports for a living. I also want to play college hockey. I am a student ambassador for Marist, member of NHS, 2 sport Varsity athlete in hockey and lacrosse, and the commentator for Sandburg hockey.
Donate to MHS Media
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All MHS Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *