All Jerry Kovar could do after the accident was tell himself not to look down at the femur sticking out of his jeans.
Kovar, adjunct criminal justice professor at the Round Rock campus and captain of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, was travelling in January 2012 with a group of fellow law enforcers. His life took a turn for the unexpected on that Saturday morning motorcycle ride.
“I never thought that would happen to me,” Kovar said. “I was a careful rider. Being older, I wasn’t going to take any risky chances when I was riding.”
In the split second Kovar lost control of his bike, he was put to a mental and physical test that not even his training as a Marine Corps drill instructor required.
The accident left the law enforcer of more than 20 years with his femur broken in three places and a long road of recovery ahead.
Kovar overcame the odds in his struggle to recovery through the support of a customized rehabilitation program and those close to him. He completed the Dallas Mayor’s Race 5K last month, less than a year after being critically injured in the motorcycle accident.
“I’ve always been a very active person,” Kovar said. “(My kids, family and friends), they’ve never seen me sick, never seen me in the hospital. The hardest (part) was really to be injured that bad and facing the possibility of not walking again, never running. To basically deal with something that happened in a few, short seconds.”
Kovar said his recovery process after surgery was on the right track through physical therapy, but he took a turn for the worse in June.
“I took myself from a wheelchair, to a walker, to crutches, to a crutch and then a cane,” Kovar said. “Then one day I felt my left leg give out. I laid down, picked my leg up and heard it click. So I knew it was broken.”
The stainless steel plate that was initially placed in Kovar’s leg after the accident had broken into three parts. The steel plate was the only thing that had been holding Kovar’s leg together, so he needed to have a bone graph surgery.
At that point, Kovar began to doubt his full recovery.
Kovar said it had seemed as though he had hit a wall during the rehabilitation process. His worst nightmare of never being able to live an active life, or the chance of permanently losing his leg, was becoming a reality.
However, Kovar was soon referred through Cigna, an insurance company, to Achilles International, a specialized group training program. Cigna and Achilles International are partnered through a referral program, said Megan Lombardo, Achilles International executive. It gives people with long-term disabilities the opportunity to achieve athletically to increase aspiration in their lives.
“(Our program) helps build individuals’ confidence,” said Beth Chiappetta, vice president of expert resources with Cigna. “It inspires them to keep the recovery moving forward.”
Kovar became one of 30 Cigna clients nationwide participating in a training program through Achilles International. Three months before the Mayor’s Race, Kovar made a goal to finish the 5K. He went on to walk across the finish line on Dec. 8 in downtown Dallas.
Kovar received clearance from his doctor on Jan. 14 to return to full duty in law enforcement. He now has 90 days to complete a test required for police officers to be in full duty.
Due to the injury, Kovar does not have to pass the test on his first try. However, Kovar would still like to take the test with fellow officers to see exactly where he stands in the recovery process.
Kovar said the next step to returning to law enforcement will be to pass the Cooper’s test, the standard SWAT team examination.
“You have to meet the standards to wear the uniform,” Kovar said. “You want to stay in good shape because you don’t want to lose that uniform. It’s a pride thing, for damn sure.”
The entire rehabilitation process has taught Kovar not to take his life for granted, he said.
“Having a strong mindset was what made it possible,” Kovar said. “The realization of having an injury and not having control over it is the hardest thing. Having a positive outlook was one thing I did have control over, and I got that done.”