For WQAD-TV’s Chief Meteorologist, James Zahara, weather is a contact sport.
“I have always loved weather…it’s exciting! Ever since I was a little kid, weather fascinated me, and it still does.”
But for the man who’s on his feet most of his work day, dashing from one weathercast to another for the 5, 6, 9 and 10 o’clock shows, as well as providing weather to local newspapers and local radio stations, a recent basketball injury provided an extra challenge to his on-air daily weather routine.
“Last winter, I was playing basketball at Black Hawk College with friends and a few people from the station. The score was tied. We were running out of time and we needed to wrap up the game. I went for a rebound, and as I went to turn and jump, I heard this ‘pop.’
“I’ve had a few sprains so I didn’t think it was serious. But, there was a tingling up my calf and I couldn’t put much weight on the heel.”
For a few weeks, James sought various medical opinions, but X-rays didn’t reveal any injury. However, by the third month, he still couldn’t push off the ball of his foot.
“My ankle was still swollen. The pain wasn’t too bad, but I was still limping.”
James sought the advice of Sports Medicine surgeon, Dr. Shawn Wynn, ORA Orthopedics. Dr. Wynn says he suspected a tear and ordered an MRI.
“When I saw James, he was complaining of weakness in his right ankle. He was told it was a sprain, but I suspected something more. I could feel a gap in his Achilles tendon and he couldn’t raise his foot.”
The MRI confirmed Dr. Wynn’s hunch. James’ Achilles’ tendon had torn, and surgery was his best option for a full recovery.
“It was a complete rupture,” describes Dr. Wynn. “The tendon wasn’t healing correctly and scar tissue was forming. James wouldn’t regain full strength without surgery.”
Several weeks later, Dr. Wynn performed an Achilles tendon repair. The procedure took less than an hour. Dr. Wynn says he made a small incision, cleaned out the scar tissue, and stitched the tendon back together.
James didn’t know what to expect. “It was a really cool experience. I was in and out in one day. The people at ORA were so awesome. It was so comforting.”
After a couple of weeks, James was back on the air with his ankle propped on a rolling scooter.
“During the show, I usually stand at the weather desk, then walk about 6 feet to the map.
“A couple of pranksters at the station decided to decorate my scooter with pinwheels and a Hello Kitty basket. The director and studio camera operators had a lot of fun watching me wheel to my stand-ups, so they would try and shoot me from the waist up. Everyone was really cool, and viewers would come up to me at the grocery store to ask me how I was doing!
“Dr. Wynn made the whole situation so comforting for me. Every time he looked at my ankle, he was encouraging me and said it was healing so well.”
Now, following physical therapy, James is back on his feet and loving his job more than ever.
“Weather has always been a passion of mine. I love the people here at WQAD, and the viewers in the Quad Cities are wonderful!”
With the storm of injury behind James, Dr. Wynn predicts a full recovery for the Quad Cities’ veteran weathercaster.
“He’ll be back up to 100%. He’s doing great.”
Sunny skies ahead, indeed.