GRAPEVINE, Ark. ― Thoughts of feasting at the Olive Garden danced in the mind of Justin Koon this week. After spending seven weeks and one day with his mouth wired shut, the bull rider from Grapevine, Ark., visited the doctor on Wednesday and had the wires removed.
"I lost about 20 pounds," said Koon, who suffered a laundry list of injuries after being jerked down face first by Mickey Mouse at the 2012 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in late October. "Starting tomorrow, I'm going to do nothing but eat."
Koon, who weighs 140 pounds when he's healthy, shouldn't have a problem putting that weight back on. He and wife, Elyse, spend many of their date nights dining at nice restaurants.
"We don't go bowling or watch movies," Koon said. "Our number-one thing is to go out to eat."
"I've been riding with injuries for so long. Now I'll be able to get everything fixed and come back at 100 percent."
Elyse's dad, however, promised to take Koon out for his first meal after the doctor's visit.
"I'm going to eat catfish," Koon said. "I can't wait."
According to Elyse on Thursday, Justin made up for lost meals by devouring a dozen raw oysters, six huge boiled shrimp, a salmon fillet, a catfish fillet and grilled vegetables. He topped it all off with a fried pie with ice cream on top.
"We finished dinner at 5:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m. we were home and he was asking to go grab fast food," Elyse said.
Koon, 29, broke his jaw one other time when he was around 18 years old.
"I had a tooth knocked out so I could eat a little more," he joked.
While Koon was excited about being able to eat solid food again, he still faces the prospect of surgery to repair a broken left arm, a torn-up right knee, a busted right elbow and a damaged right arm. There's a chance, he said, he may not require surgery on his left arm.
"If it's not needed, then they'll go ahead and fix the tendons and stuff in my right arm and knee," said Koon, who had carried some of his injury woes into the World Finals. "I have the ACL and MCL torn in two, so I'm going to try and have my riding hand and my right knee fixed at the same time, so hopefully I can be back over the summer."
The wreck and subsequent time off, Koon said, may end up be a blessing in disguise.
"I've been riding with injuries for so long," he said. "Now I'll be able to get everything fixed and come back at 100 percent."
Koon enjoyed his two best seasons on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2011-12, finishing 24th in 2012 with 17 qualified rides and $67,854.25 in winnings.
His recovery, Koon said, has been helped immensely through the support of his fans and bull riding friends, such as Cord McCoy, Kody Lostroh and Reese Cates, who have sent him text messages of encouragement throughout the ordeal. His followers have posted get-well wishes on his fan pages as well.
His biggest supporter, however, remains Elyse, who last Saturday graduated from college with her nursing degree.
"Everything from showering to eating to getting him dressed was a struggle," she wrote in her blog for the PBR earlier this fall.
While tending to her husband, Elyse was finishing up her last semester of nursing school and was faced with daunting task of final exams as well as managing a full-time preceptorship.
"It was probably our biggest challenge yet as a married couple," she wrote.
Koon credits Elyse with him being able to get through the toughest of times.
"There's no way I could have done this without my wife and my family," he said. "She's just been running ragged getting through nursing school and taking care of me. I have a new respect for anyone in nursing school and who completes nursing school. I got to see how hard it is."
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