The Washougal Panthers feed off Chloe Johnson’s energy and appreciate all that she did to get back on the floor after enduring a painful offseason
WASHOUGAL — A steal and a layup.
That’s her game.
Another steal. A drive to the basket.
She’s on the floor.
But no worries, she bounces right back on to her feet.
A couple minutes later, another steal, and another layup.
Chloe Johnson is right where she belongs, on the basketball court. Sometimes, many times a game, she is sprawled over the court after making another diving attempt to deflect a pass or make another steal.
That’s just what she does, who she is, even after all that she has endured.
Chloe Johnson is playing basketball her senior season with the Washougal Panthers. A couple of months ago, she did not know that was going to be possible. Back in September, she had hoped — only hoped — be playing by January.
Instead, she willed herself back in time for the start of the season.
“I didn’t want to miss my senior season. I knew there was something wrong. Even though deep down, I probably shouldn’t be playing (yet), I’m accepting this is probably my last year playing ball so I was just going to give it my all,” Johnson said.
A knee surgery in June did not go as expected. A rare condition in both knees made full recovery a longshot. At one point, she tried blood spinning, a painful procedure. She just wanted to try anything to get back to being herself, a multi-sport athlete.
This past fall, for the first time in high school, she did not play a sport. She just couldn’t.
But during that down time, she had an epiphany. Forget that possible January return to sports. She just had to be back with her basketball team for November practice, for December games.
“Recovery, it’s more than just physical,” Johnson said. “I definitely had a change in mindset. I kind of switched my mindset. ‘I’m going to be out there playing.’”
Sure enough, there was Chloe Johnson, on the court with her Washougal teammates, for the first game of the season.
“It was a very happy moment for me,” Johnson said. “My family was emotional. My teammates were happy that I was out there. Definitely a lot of emotions. I didn’t care how I did. ‘I’m out here playing.’”
Johnson’s knees were giving her fits for some time. Years, actually. But she carried on with athletics.
It was last season when Johnson figured it was more than just discomfort. She kept playing, though. At the state tournament, she said she was “out of gas.” A trainer there gave her a quick exam, and told her she likely had torn meniscus.
Johnson, who also is a softball player, did not play softball last spring. Instead, she competed in track and field as a thrower, hoping it would be less stressful on her knees. In May, she got the results of a test back, and yes, torn meniscus in both knees.
In June, she had surgery on her left knee, with the intention of getting her right knee fixed at a later date.
“It did not go well,” Johnson said. “The surgery did nothing for me.”
It turned out, Johnson has discoid meniscus. Her meniscus is more disc-shaped than c-shaped, making it harder to repair, more difficult to heal, and more susceptible to reinjury.
“Very devastated,” Johnson said. “Everyone I talked to (before surgery) said it’s a quick recovery. But after five or six weeks, I wasn’t any better. Three months go by, nothing. Still worse. And getting worse. Physical therapy didn’t do anything. I lost all hope.”
The Johnson family looked into one more procedure, platelet rich plasma therapy, or blood spinning. A doctor took blood from Johnson’s arm, put it in a machine to spin, separating the red and white blood cells and the plasma, then injecting it into her knees.
Chloe Johnson said it was the most pain she had ever felt, but it was worth it to try to get back to sports.
There are so many people happy to have Johnson back on the basketball court. One is head coach Tim Melcher, who took over the program prior to this season.
“She’s an absolute warrior. The team feeds off her energy, her leadership,” Melcher said. “She played 32 minutes against (Hudson’s) Bay, on two bad knees. She’s absolutely gritting it out. She’s giving the team everything she has.”
Melcher said this is all a bonus for him and the program. When he was hired, he wasn’t sure how much Johnson would play. But he was impressed with Johnson’s attitude. She had told him that even if she couldn’t play, she would have been at every practice, and she would have been there on the bench during the games, helping in any way she could.
That meant a lot to a new coach.
It means even more to him that she was able to will herself to the court.
“She wants to do everything she can to help us,” Melcher said.
Now, Chloe Johnson is back on the basketball court. She also plans on playing a sport in the spring, although she is not sure what just yet. If she does play this spring, that will be 11 varsity letters in her career.
“I’ve played sports my whole life,” Johnson said. “I’ve always expected to have a crazy senior season, and I always looked forward to it. It was going to be my senior season, my time to kind of shine. I’m glad I have the opportunity to do it. I’m grateful.”
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