The creation of Athlecare has been quite a journey. Our founder, Justin Decker, wanted to create a place where you would be listened to and be able to get the help you deserve. Check out his story below!
Our Founder’s Passion
My story actually starts when I was 16 years old. At that time, I played football. You will be surprised I did. I am 5′ 7″ and not very heavy, but somehow I still held my own. Ironically, I never got hurt because of some giant laying me out. I got hurt because I slipped on wet grass. As I fell, I stuck my elbow out. Apparently, it was the wrong move. When I hit the ground my shoulder popped out through my armpit. Because of that incident, I would go through two years of surgeries and therapies to get my labrum to stay on my shoulder. Those two years opened my eyes to the sports medicine world and got me hooked.
My journey didn’t end there. My shoulder therapy only started my passion. My real passion grew because of my wife.
August of 2014 I met my wife. She was kind, beautiful, and talented. We fell in love and got married pretty quickly. I don’t recommend getting married quickly, but it has worked out for us. However, I was not aware of the pain growing inside of my wife’s abdomen. Soon after getting married, I found out she hardly slept. She was in constant pain. Upon investigating I found out this pain started when she was 16. At that time she went to her doctor who sent her to the hospital. There she stayed for two weeks. During that time she was fed a liquid diet through an IV and was pumped full of antibiotics. Her pain went away so they sent her home. The moment she started eating again the pain returned and never stopped.
Chronic pain is hell. It seeps into every part of your life. My wife’s pain quickly became worse and worse. I spent many nights up with her giving her massages on her back and stomach, getting her heat packs, and just holding her. Finally, after a year, I got her to go to the doctor. For the next year, we went to a dozen doctors doing all sorts of tests. The diagnosis? “You look fine.”
Fine!? What do you mean fine?! The frustration was intoxicating. How could you say she was fine? Since all the diagnostics came back negative then surely she was just fine and needed to manage the pain. But how do you manage pain? The only solution for us was drugs, but my wife couldn’t tolerate drugs so our solution was to suffer. I cannot tell you the frustration that filled me seeing my wife suffer and not having a single answer for her.
The other frustrating part was if you looked at her you could tell she was very very sick. She looked like a starving person from a concentration camp. By this point. She had lost weight and was down to 105 pounds. She was extremely skinny and when she ate, her stomach would become very bloated.
What were we told by medical professionals? “You look all good according to our tests”. It was so confusing to see her so sick, but have nothing wrong with her. In fact, we would go to stores, and random people would pull me away and say, “Is your wife okay? Does she need to go to the hospital?” I didn’t know how to answer.
October of 2016 was the worst month of my life. Finally, after a couple of years of trying to get my wife’s help, a Gastroenterologist suggested she swallow a camera pill. It was a camera that would take pictures of her intestine to see if they could find something. Finally a good idea! My wife swallowed it, but after two weeks it never came out. That day we got a call for her to come in for emergency surgery.
I dropped her off at surgery and waited 5 hours for her to get out. When I met with her in her hospital room I could tell something was wrong. She looked dead. She was barely cognitive. I was reassured she would be fine so I headed home to finish painting our bed frame so I could be ready for her to come home. As I’m painting I get a phone call. “Is this Justin?” someone asked on the phone. I replied, “this is him”.
“This is Kylie’s surgeon, you need to get here right away.”
“What happened?” I replied.
“Kylie had to go into second surgery and is now in the ICU.” said the surgeon.
“What does this mean?” I asked.
“We are not sure?” said the surgeon.
“Are you saying she may die?” I urgently questioned.
“We can’t guarantee anything, but you need to get here quick,” she said.
After I got the call from the surgeon I went into shock. I was not prepared to be a widower at 23. My brother drove me to the hospital to visit my wife in the ICU. You wouldn’t believe the amount of wires and tubes coming out of her body. It turns out a foot and a half of her intestines went necrotic (died). This sent her body into a cascade of events that caused all of her organs to shut down. She was only being kept alive by a breathing tube and chemicals.
After many miracles, my wife woke up after a week. By this point, her body had atrophied so much she could hardly move. For the next year, my wife would have to relearn to sit up, stand, and then walk. Once we got her home after over a month in the hospital we saw our doctors again.
They explained to us that the only way she was going to stay alive was to take an immunosuppressant drug. These drugs have an enormous amount of side effects and are no fun. We didn’t like that option, but the doctors persisted.vWe decided not to go the drug route and found a doctor that would teach us how to manage her issues through lifestyle and diet. I am pleased to say that 5 years later my wife is the healthiest she has ever been
My passion is to give people a place of learning, consistent treatment, and where you would be listened to was because of what I learned through this trial. The whole experience was 100% preventable if we would have found someone sooner that would have been more available, taught us more, and actually listened to my wife’s pain. We don’t treat gastrointestinal issues at Athlecare, but we hope we can be there for you for any orthopedic injuries, pain, or preventative care.
Welcome to my passion. I hope you get an experience you have not had before. Help us grow. Let us know how you think we can improve. We are looking to create a unique place where active people can go to be able to stay active for life and without injury.