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Former Billings West standout Chris Garcia back on his feet thanks to care at Shriners Children's Hospital

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Jun 14, 2024

BILLINGS — During the second quarter of the 2023 Montana East-West Shrine game in Butte, former Billings West standout Chris Garcia suffered an unfortunate injury.

“I was chasing after the quarterback and then next thing I knew, someone flew into my leg. I tried getting up and I couldn't get up, so that was a bummer,” Garcia said. “And I knew as soon as it happened, I probably broke my leg.”

Garcia suffered a spiral fracture of the fibula and a dislocated ankle. It was a tough break both literally and figuratively for the Montana Tech football signee.

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Chris Garcia on the sidelines of the 2023 Montana East-West Shrine Game following a leg injury.

“As soon as it first happened, pretty much the first thing I thought about was football and realizing oh shoot, I'm probably not playing for a while,” Garcia said. “What am I going to do about college? What am I going to do about a lot of this stuff? Because everything revolved around football.”

During the lead up to the game, the Shriners told the players that if they were injured in the game their medical care and recovery would be taken care of.

“I didn’t think much of it, but then I broke my ankle and all of a sudden I’m in that position,” Garcia said.

Garcia and his mother drove to Spokane the next day to meet with doctors. And that’s where orthopedic surgeon Dr. Glen Baird stepped in.

“He fractured his fibula which is on the outside of the leg and a pretty common thing to break. So we did a surgery that involved putting the bone back together and using a surgical plate and some screws, which is a pretty straightforward thing to do,” Baird said.

“And then from that point, it's all Chris. It's all Chris to get his strength back and to get to get his mobility back.”

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Garcia following surgery at the Shriners Children's Hospital in Spokane.

In keeping with the Shriners Children’s Hospital mission, it came at no cost to Chris or his family.

“You know, that was a really big blessing having them take care of everything for me,” Garcia said. “That was also one of the biggest concerns about it. It was just like, ‘Jeez, this is going to cost a crazy amount of money.’ So that was super cool.”

And after months of rehab, Garcia was cleared to return to the field just in time for spring drills with Montana Tech in Butte.

“I can't wait to be playing football again. Where I was at in my life before it all happened, I had no idea. I thought I was gonna be playing football until I died, you know?,” Garcia said.

“And then having this happened, it really slowed me down a lot. Showed me what's important. But I can’t thank the Shriners hospital enough. Everyone treated me like family and it was a great experience.”

Dr. Baird will always remember Chris as a patient with a one-of-a-kind drive.

“Chris a great kid. I don't think I've ever had a more motivated patient than Chris,” Baird said. “I don't think I've ever had to slow anybody down as much as we tried to slow Chris. But what you see today, that’s 95% Chris and maybe 5% what we did.”