By Benjamin Wideman / Director of Communications
Kyle Bush admits he doesn’t have the fanciest footwork on the soccer field.
“And when I run, it can look a little funky,” the Silver Lake College freshman said with a smile.
But the mere fact Bush competes in college athletics serves as inspiration to those around him.
The 19-year-old defender was born with clubfoot, a congenital condition in which one or both feet are turned inward — in Bush’s case, the palms of both feet were so twisted they faced upward. He underwent his first surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., when he was 9 months old, followed by four more reconstructive surgeries over the next six years.
Bush re-learned how to walk after each of the latter surgeries. Now, 12 years after the last surgery (he avoided additional surgeries so he could continue playing sports), the condition continues to deteriorate in his left leg, meaning more surgeries await in the not-too-distant future. Further complicating matters is the arthritis he battles in both knees and ankles, as well as migraine headaches.
While it would be easy for Bush to hang up his cleats for good, that’s simply not his style. He’d rather be on the soccer field alongside his Silver Lake College teammates.
“I’ve come to an understanding with myself that as I get older I won’t be as physically active as I am now, because my legs won’t be able to take it,” Bush said. “So I’m just trying to get the most out of it as I can right now before I lose the ability to do things.
“I want to be able to say to myself, ‘Yeah, I did it,’ after I was told I probably wouldn’t be able to when I was younger. It’s more of a personal goal than anything. I’m going to keep playing until I can’t take the pain anymore.”
A few years ago, doctors at the Mayo Clinic gave Bush a 100-yard running limit. But that didn’t deter him from giving football, basketball, track and wrestling a try. It wasn’t until his junior year at Algoma High School that Bush joined the soccer team at the encouragement of friends.
Each sport exacted a physical toll on Bush’s body.
“It really takes a lot out of me when I run more than 100 yards at one stretch,” he said. “That 100-yard limit hasn’t been raised, so I don’t know if I’m technically supposed to run more than that. Sometimes I have to stop, though, because if run a lot at one time, my knees start clicking and my ankles get sharp pains. You should see me after a game — I limp around a lot and walk slower like I’m an old man.”
Bush said that cutting, weaving or trying to handle or kick the ball can be challenging.
“It took me a while to even learn how to kick the ball, because my ankles are pretty locked into place,” he said. “To do it you have to bend your ankles in certain ways, so I had to make my own way of kicking a ball.
“I don’t use clubfoot and arthritis as an excuse. I push myself beyond what I’m supposed to do, but I know when to stop. I know my body and my body’s limits.”
Despite his physical challenges, Bush is a valuable contributor to the Silver Lake College soccer program, said second-year head coach Guido Lenaerts.
“Kyle knows what needs to be accomplished and gives it his all,” Lenaerts said. “Kyle makes many sprints from his left outside defense position to help the offense up front. If we put a pedometer on him, I would think he easily hits six miles of short sprints during a game. … It is dedicated players like Kyle Bush that will make this soccer program work.”
That dedication translates to Bush’s coursework, as well.
Bush is majoring in nursing at Silver Lake College, where he intends to earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree. After that, he’s planning to pursue additional training and work as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
“I spent a lot of time in hospitals for surgeries and, later on, check-ups, so I have associated with many nurses, aides, anesthetists and doctors,” said Bush, noting he wore leg casts and braces as a child and also used a walker and wheelchair at times. “Getting to know them and seeing how nice and kind they were to me, and the empathy and compassion they showed for me, it made me think, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to help other people too.’ ”
Throughout his senior year at Algoma High School, Bush worked as a nursing aide at the Algoma Long Term Care Unit. That enriching experience helped solidify his desire to pursue nursing.
Bush also plays alto saxophone in the Silver Lake College Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble, and years from now after he retires from nursing he’d like to pursue a second career as a music teacher.
For now, though, he’s determined to make the most of each day.
“I never want to look back and think, ‘What if?’ ” Bush said. “I’m making the most of my opportunities right now.”