Jessica Lindstrom will surely remember the last 30 days for the rest of her life.
On Feb. 15, the former Superior Spartan and UW-Green Bay Phoenix was her usual self, scoring 19 points with 15 rebounds in the Mechlenen Kangoeroes’ 92-58 win over Sparta Laarne in a professional basketball game in Belgium.
A week later she suffered a season-ending knee injury, which included a torn ACL, and tiny tears in the MCL (Grade 1) and meniscus.
“It was a freak thing,” Lindstrom said. “I was jumping for a rebound and was coming straight down. But a girl hit me from the side and I landed awkward. It’s unfortunate — she must have hit me so perfectly.”
Lindstrom underwent surgery on March 4 and originally planned on rehabbing with the Kangoeroes’ physical therapy staff before returning to Superior on April 21, when the season was over.
Those plans changed on Friday, March 13, when Belgium announced it would be closing its borders and cancelling all flights in and out of the country because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
“We had a team meeting on Monday (March 16), and they told us we had to be out (of Belgium) by Thursday (March 19), because the Belgium government was going to shut down the airports and the borders,” Lindstrom said. “It was crazy.”
Lindstrom had just three days to tie up loose ends, including buying plane tickets and securing her apartment. She also had the stitches removed from her knee the day before she left.
“Getting out of Belgium was easier than I thought it would be,” Lindstrom said. “I live near the Brussels airport, the club booked the tickets online and they were cheap — $400 straight to Chicago and then to Minneapolis.”
The 10-hour flight from Brussels to Chicago went well for Lindstrom, who was forced to use a wheelchair while moving around the airports. Ironically, Lindstrom wasn’t allowed to use a wheelchair when she left the hospital following her surgery.
“I was being wheelchaired all around — it was kind of embarrassing,” Lindstrom said. “I was easily the youngest one on the plane and there were so many older people that could have used the chair. But the attendants were amazing. You get to skip all of the long lines, they take your bags, they were super nice.”
Once she arrived in Minneapolis, her parents, Mitch and Wendy Lindstrom, picked her up and she was back in Superior late Wednesday night.
“I slept so well that night, the first time in a long time,” Wendy Lindstrom said.
During her trip home, Jessica Lindstrom was tested at a couple of airports for the coronavirus, and both tests came back negative.
She will still have to self-quarantine for a while, and during that time will start rehab on the knee.
“I’m very glad to be back,” Lindstrom said. “I live by myself over there and now I can get some help with the PT (physical therapy). I have to start bending my leg and work at getting my range back, and my parents can help with that.”
Lindstrom said her surgery went well and if everything goes smoothly, she’s expecting a 100% recovery by September, when the Kangoeroes’ new season begins.
“I’m not going to rush anything, but that’s the goal, to be ready for the season,” said Lindstrom, who signed a new contract with the Kangoeroes before she left Belgium.
“I really like it there,” Lindstrom said. “Lexi Klabo, who played at the University of North Dakota, and I, as well as a bunch of other girls, got along well and we all signed. So we’ll all come back next year.”
So after everything she’s been through the last month, there may be a silver lining at the end of it all.
“I guess it was a good time to get hurt,” Lindstrom said. “They ended up canceling the final four games, so nobody got to play, and I should be ready to go when the league starts up again in September.
“I actually left half of my stuff in my apartment, because I know I’ll be going back in August. Hopefully everything clears up by then,” she said.
NOTES: The Kangoeroes were 12-6 when Lindstrom got hurt and 15-7 when the season was canceled. … Lindstrom averaged 15.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. … The Kangoeroes actually play in two leagues — one in Belgium and the European League, which is a level up. … When Mitch and Wendy Lindstrom were in Belgium for Jessica’s surgery, there were only a couple of people with the coronavirus. As of Monday, March 23, there were 3,743 cases, 88 deaths and 401 people who have recovered. … Lindstrom said Belgium restricted how long people can leave their homes. People can only be outside for up to 30 minutes, and there can’t be more than two people together a time. “If there’s more than two (people), you get a fine, if you do it again, you get jail time,” Lindstrom said. “One of the few places you can go is to the grocery store, but you need a police escort.” … Lindstrom is hoping to eventually work out at UWGB.