On Wednesday, I went to the hospital under the impression that I was visiting a child who played soccer. I thought he might have his spirits uplifted by some company after being in the hospital. Those are the only details I had going into it, but I left with so much more.
Upon arrival with a couple of the men’s soccer players, we discovered that the patient was not a child, he was a 22-year-old college athlete. He was in bed when we arrived and the nurse told us he is in a wheelchair.
He was very talkative, which was nice because I am typically shy around new people, and he made me feel very comfortable. He was in high spirits despite being in the hospital since August. I think he could sense that we were curious… how did a college soccer player end up in the hospital for six months?
We talked soccer. I could hear the excitement in his voice when we recognized all the teams he had played for and the tournaments he had played in. He had been isolated in the hospital with people who were not familiar with the sport. The nurses just kind of nodded their heads when he told them that he played for some of the best clubs in Mexico, and how successful he had been as a goalkeeper, but we knew. We were on common ground and I think us being there was like a breath of fresh air.
When he was talking, I did not even realize that he was leading up to tell us how he got to the hospital. He described how he was playing for a USL team in the summer between college seasons. Then he said he had one month off in between the USL league and preseason for his college team. In my head, I’m imagining he is going to tell us he was in a crazy accident… he was riding a motorcycle or he was in a boat crash while enjoying his one month off. The way he told the story, I was sure that was where the story was going so I braced myself mentally, but the moment did not come. Instead he began describing his first day of preseason with his college team, there was a three-mile fitness test. All he could remember was that it was hot. That is all he knows about that day. He doesn’t know of the commotion that occurred when he fell and began having convulsions. He doesn’t remember anything besides waking up from a coma two months later.
Once he came out of the coma his lungs started to leak fluid, and he needed tubes to drain them. His liver failed and he had to get a transplant. His headache was unbearable and there was no way to escape it. He developed a condition that makes it nearly impossible to build muscle. He was in a wheelchair. The list goes on and on.
Three times! His family was told three different times that he was going to die. He was not savable. He was too sick. His condition was too severe. Yet, he sat before me in a hospital room telling jokes and smiling at us.
The seizure had taken his ability to feel his arms and legs and his body fought back. He slowly regained sensations throughout his body. The story of his ongoing recovery is amazing. It was tough to hear about how difficult it was for him to sit up. He described how walking a few steps is now equivalent to the sprints he ran for hours before. This man’s body was used to getting pushed beyond many people’s imagination and now he struggled to do the simplest things.
I admire his fight for his life and I am truly blessed to have met him. The biggest thing I took from his story is that you never know… It was a normal day for him. It was like every other day. It takes one moment to completely change the course of our lives. A seizure triggered by high blood pressure during his fitness test. An aspect of every athletes’ normal routine… fitness; pushing our bodies beyond where our brains think we can go changed his life. I think it is important to remember every day should be cherished because you just never know…