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When Rehab Goes Right!

Six years ago Luke Lokay thought he’d never walk straight again. This October, Luke will represent America as part of USA Karate Kickboxing team in Cancun, Mexico at the Pan American Championships. His story of determination is one that inspires his teammates and the community.

In 2012, Lokay was a fourth grader in the Norwin School District where he was recruited by Sensei Bill Viola Jr. to join “Team Kumite” (an all-star traveling karate team). Viola remembers, “I just saw something in Luke. He had the intangibles I look for. He had that the eye of the tiger—heart.” I wanted to work with him and get him ready for the big leagues.” 

Lokay was poised to compete for his first national karate championship when a fluke accident sent his body and dreams crashing. Lokay recalls, “I was riding my bike and my neighbor’s dog [Kippie] charged at me. He knocked me to the ground awkwardly and pinned my knee. I was in pain.” Luke’s parents [John and Amy] took him to multiple specialists and hospitals in the area. Initial emergency rooms didn’t treat him with urgency. He was told to “just rest” the injured leg. The recommendation didn’t sit well with his dad. John Lokay recalls, “I wasn’t satisfied with what they were saying at all. I went out on a limb and ignored the prognosis. A friend of mine told me to get ahold of Dr. Freddie Fu. That call saved my boy. He actually called me on a Sunday from New York, and got us in the next day.”

Luke was rushed in for a 3rd Opinion where Dr. Fu (Chair of Orthopedic Surgery at UPMC) and confirmed Luke had in fact torn his ACL, meniscus and broke his tibia that pulled into the knee cap. The diagnosis was severe for anyone, especially for someone that young. Dr. Fu told the family that if he didn’t perform surgery the next day, the leg may never straighten again. The Lokay’s followed his advice, rehabilitation and course of action. At the time, karate was out of the picture but Dr. Fu was optimistic that if Luke followed the rehab he could someday make a return.

Luke underwent surgery and began the long journey of rehabilitation. Although he couldn’t train, he still remained active with his karate school by attending tournaments to cheer on his teammates. His Sensei remembers, “Most kids would have quit, but there is something special about him. Everyone was rooting for him. I’ve never seen a kid with such a serious injury be able to bounce back like he did.”

Flash forward to 2018, and Luke has earned a spot on “Team USA” at the WAKO Trials in Kansas City, Missouri in February in the 63- Kg weight class. The selection process is limited to the current national champions officially recognized by their National Olympic Committees or Ministry of Sports. In the upcoming months while other kids are enjoying summer break, 15-year old Luke will be training for Gold.

Lokay, now going into 10th grade at Norwin High School explains, “Representing my country is such huge honor. I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk, let alone compete for a Gold medal. I’m making the most of my second chance. I’m dedicating this journey to Dr. Fu, who fixed me up.”

About Luke Lokay: He has been training at Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate in North Huntingdon since he was 5-years-old and is a goodwill representative for the Western PA Police Athletic League (PAL) where is serves as an advocate for disadvantaged youth. Loaky is also a “Junior Leader” for the University of Pittsburgh’s PIND (Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegerative Disease) 5K Kick-a-thon where he and his team raise funds to “Kick Parkinson’s Disease.” He will kick for 1-mile straight non-stop on Labor Day to raise awareness of the cause.

For more info visit www.pind5k.org.

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