Tab Creekmore went through his sixth surgery in the past week and a half on Monday.
On Oct. 26, on the first play of Mulvane High School’s opening-round playoff loss to Arkansas City, Creekmore, the Wildcats’ sophomore quarterback, pulled a zone read. When he was tackled, he broke his tibia and fibula.
He had never broken a bone before. It felt more like an electric shock through his leg than pain, so he tried to get up. But then he looked at one of his teammates.
“I saw his face turn pale,” Creekmore said. “I looked at my leg and said, ‘Oh, no. Something’s definitely broken.’ “
That wasn’t the worst part.
With his broken leg, Creekmore’s muscles started to wither quickly. He suffered from compartment syndrome. The surgeries weren’t just to realign the bones; they needed to reattach his muscles.
Creekmore said most people would have been out of the hospital after a day. His muscle disease affects 1 percent of people with a broken leg, he said.
It has been 12 days since Creekmore entered the hospital. He is still in pain, but he said the support he has received has been shocking, and uplifting.
“This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through in my life,” he said. “But I’ve had people from all sorts of places I don’t even know.”
One of the biggest supporters came from one of the most unlikely sources.
Wellington is one of Mulvane’s biggest rivals. The Wildcats beat the Crusaders 14-13 in the final week of the regular season, just seven days before Creekmore’s injury.
On Saturday, Wellington quarterback Michael Ledbetter drove 40 minutes north to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita to visit his rival, and he brought a gift.
The entire Wellington football team signed a poster with the simple message: “Get well soon — love, your Crusader football team.”
“It hit me,” he said. “It hit me really hard. It was awesome.”
Ledbetter met with Creekmore and his family for about 15 minutes, a small greeting that was a few days in the making. After Ledbetter learned about Creekmore’s injury, he got his phone number and started texting him.
Ledbetter said the walls of the rivalry soon broke down.
“He seemed like a really cool guy, and I just didn’t want Wellington-Mulvane to get in the way,” he said. “I wanted Tab to feel like a true friend.”
Creekmore’s condition has slowly improved. He underwent a skin graft surgery Monday, but he said he will be out until the start of 2019, likely missing the Wildcats’ basketball season.
“Just having that support around me, nobody realizes how much it actually impacts me and makes me want to keep going,” Creekmore said.