RENOWNED throwing Coach Michael Vassell has a new spring in his step after undergoing corrective knee surgery in India which has eased 30 years of agony, pain and the diminishing of his ability to walk properly.
Vassell, the founder of Throwers 'R' Us club — responsible for the nurturing of some of Jamaica's best throwers — is currently in India recovering and said he is indebted to the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) and to his newfound Indian family for their financial assistance.
The SDF accounted for his airfare and the Jayasankar Menon family bore the cost of the surgery and accommodation.
"I am grateful to the SDF for providing this type of aid to coaches and other members of the sporting fraternity. Through this facility I was able to rid myself of a 30-year-old injury — and for that I am appreciative," Vassell told the Jamaica Observer.
"While researching the cost of travel and recovery, I realised that airfare exceeded US$2000; so as not to lose this opportunity I decided to seek assistance from the SDF," the national throwing coach said.
"I called and was told that as a national level coach I could send a request for assistance. I submitted a letter on July 30 and was told that the process would take a minimum of three weeks. I got called on August 29 that my request had been successful. I booked my tickets, departed Jamaica September 15, arrived in Chennai September 17, saw the surgeon the same night and had surgery September 19, 2022," he explained.
SDF General Manager Denzil Wilks further explained how the moving parts were put together.
"Michael has actually approached the SDF with the idea of developing a special facility for the field events. When we were approached to assist with the surgery, being knowledgeable of the contribution he had made to India's field events development and their willingness to have the surgery done at their cost, providing the travel cost was in keeping with what we do for our athletes and their coaches and administrators," said Wilks.
He continued: "To see Michael walk without discomfort will be like a dream come true, and we pray for his complete recovery."
In 1986 the former Kingston College student was playing "scrimmage" football and injured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
Vassell said he couldn't afford the cost of the surgery then, and was also finding it difficult to afford it now.
That did not hamper him from becoming one of Jamaica's foremost field event coaches, but over the last 10 years, he said, the pain had become unbearable. And the limp had become more pronounced.
But having worked in India a couple of years ago, where he passed on his vast athletics knowledge, he explored the opportunity of surgery and got help from the relatives of one of his athletes.
The operation had been scheduled but COVID-19 forced India into lockdown and all elective surgeries were put on hold.
The coaching project he was working on was also scrapped and he was stuck in India for six months.
"I had two cancelled, non-refundable flights, and it was very chaotic and challenging as my visa had expired by then," Vassell explained.
Luckily, he had met the family of Jayasankar Menon through his daughter Krishna, who had been a member of the academy, and they provided assistance with accommodation and getting him back to Jamaica.
"I would like to acknowledge the family and friends of Jayasankar Menon in Chennai for their... hospitality as I work on the recovery process," said Vassell.
"I am currently on the road to recovery and the pain is constant but diminishing. Just the knowledge that I will have a semblance of normalcy after 30 years makes the pain bearable," he said.
Menon's daughter Krishna was a part of Vassell's training group in 2020 and she came to Jamaica for six months before gaining an athletics scholarship to the United States of America.