EL DORADO — As the weeks crawled by in his hospital room at Via Christi, Sean Goodwin began to contemplate a future without all the things he’d always counted on.
Playing basketball for Butler Community College kept him focused on school. Being away at school kept him out of trouble. Staying out of trouble kept him from going down the wrong path in life.
If doctors came in and told him at any point that, yes, they were going to have to amputate his leg or most of his foot, he thought all of that would fall apart.
“It was really hard,” said Goodwin, a Hutchinson native. “I felt like if I’d lost my leg, I might have gone down the wrong path … so much of my motivation for school and my focus comes from basketball. I didn’t want to lose that.”
Last November, Goodwin, a 6-foot-6 forward, injured one of his big toes when a teammate accidentally stepped on it at a Butler practice.
Within one week, the toenail became infected and fell off. When treatments didn’t work, things got scary in a hurry.
A wound-disease specialist in Wichita diagnosed Goodwin with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection — a specialized antibiotic-resistant staph infection that turned the toe into an open, gaping wound and was working its way into his bones.
Any infected area that could not be treated would have to be amputated. The doctors initially planned to take off Goodwin’s leg to the knee — or higher — in order to save his life. Doctors gave notice that if the skin started to break or pop overnight, to call them immediately.
“Everything the doctors tried, (Goodwin) was resistant to it ... it’s a scary deal,” Butler coach Mike Bargen said. “Once it gets in any part of the bone, they have to remove it. We all started to worry about his immediate future …and further beyond that.”
Doctors were able, over time, to treat the infection from the knee down, but determined they couldn’t save the toe. Goodwin began putting his hopes into saving, at least, part of his foot.
“Then they found a doctor who said he’d salvage my leg,” Goodwin said. “He knew it was important for me to get back to my life, to try and get back to playing basketball.”
Doctors amputated the top part of Goodwin’s toe and took a skin graft off of his knee to cover up the wound and help the healing process — the graft was put into place to cover up the exposed tendons and ligaments as the flesh had completely rotted off parts of his foot.
“I was breaking down in tears because the toe… it looked like it was going to just fall off,” said Goodwin’s mother, Cyndi Sanchez. “The doctors had to remind me how far we’d come, from thinking we were going to lose the leg. That’s my baby, though, I don’t care how big he gets. I’m the mom, I’m going to freak out, of course. There were so many people that were so supportive of him through all of this, starting with his family and teammates and coaches and then the doctors. Everyone was behind him.”
The surgery worked, and seven weeks after entering the hospital, Goodwin was out and in a walking boot. One month after that, he had a permission to wear sandals and flip flops.
“I started shooting by myself in the gym, in the spring,” Goodwin said. “Then I decided to stay in El Dorado for the summer and that’s when I got back into the full swing of things.”
Goodwin, now a redshirt freshman, weathered another minor setback when he tore his meniscus in late October and missed a month of Butler’s season. He is back now, averaging six points and three rebounds for the Grizzlies, who are 12-2 after going 10-20 last season.
“The doctors have a metal plate they put in his shoe to protect his toe, but other than that it’s business as usual,” Bargen said. “He had to get back in game shape, but he made it through a pretty horrible ordeal.”
Butler went into the break on a high note, defeating then-No. 22 Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa 62-61 on Saturday in El Dorado.
“Everyone on the team really cares about each other, it’s a good environment,” Goodwin said. “And (Bargen) is a big reason why I was able to get back to what I loved… he visited me a couple of times a week the whole time I was in the hospital and was always positive, always telling me that I was going to come back.
“That meant a lot to me because I knew, even with what I was going through, he had his own things he was dealing with. The team was struggling, his wife was pregnant, but he still made time for me. I look at him more like a father figure then as a coach… he doesn’t just care about us on the court. He proved that.”
Goodwin is more susceptible to MRSA now that he’s had it, and any scrape of wound is treated with the utmost precaution. He takes every precaution with cleaning and treating wounds, and has a new appreciation for the life he was able to come back to.
“People believed in me, believed I could come back,” Goodwin said. “It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.”