Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Weather? or Whether...

Today at the Luncheon we were asked a question on how we deal with the weather changes, delays, cancellations, and reschedules that come with playing a spring outdoor sport in Wisconsin. I answered with, "it's stressful, not knowing where or when or IF you'll play. But somehow, we manage to do it every year and get by while still passing our classes." However, after further review, it's such a silly thing to be stressed about....

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the NACSM conference in St. Cloud, Minnesota. NACSM is American College of Sports Medicine, Northland Chapter. They host a conference every year for Kinesiology Majors, like myself, to present research studies, findings and of course, have speakers on several topics. And although I was extremely impressed with the keynote speaker, Dr. Len Kravitz, it was David Carle, a 20 year old from Anchorage, Alaska, who impacted me the most...
David Carle, left his childhood home in Anchorage, Alaska at the age of 15 , and came to Minnesota to pursue a career as a professional hockey player. He completed his high school career at Shattuck, St Mary's Prep school with a National Title in 2008 and a full scholarship to Denver Colorado. Before he started his college hockey career, he was invited to the NHL Hockey Combine where the top 75 players in the US come together and perform in front of pro scouts. He made it through every test and drill, including a #1 finish in the Wingate Test. He was a for sure 2nd, maybe 1st round draft pick, and had his whole life ahead of him. The only thing stopping him was the required EKG. And boy, did it stop him.

Two days after the combine, David got an email saying he needed to see a cardiologist at Mayo Hospital concerning his abnormal EKG. After further testing, David found out, the morning of the NHL draft, that he had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and was told that he needed to withdraw his name from the draft and that he could never again play hockey...talk about a 180...

The walls of his heart, which are normally between 5-9 mm, were 24mm thick, causing restricted blood flow in his left ventricle and thus, making his heart work harder to allow proper function. This disease, where many times, your first symptom is your last, is genetic. You've maybe heard about it on the news one time or another..recently, Wes Leonard, a high school basketball player at Fennville, hit the game winning shot to end their season with a perfect record and within minutes, collapsed and subsequently died on the court. This was result of the same disease, only David's was caught ahead of time. The Wingate test alone should have killed him. It's a test that takes your heart rate from normal to max (over 200bpm) in almost 30 seconds. But he somehow made it through...and with a 1st place finish none the less...

David now has a "box" for lack of a better word, implanted in his chest to monitor his heart rate. He cannot exercise above 160 bpm, so going from a professional athlete, to nothing more than jogging, was an adjustment both physically and mentally. If his HR gets above 220bpm, the "box" sends a shock of 500 Volts to his chest which he said is a similar feeling to getting kicked in the chest by a horse.

Minus the one misfire where the device was reading incorrectly and shocked him unnecessarily, and a collapse on the court at a practice, this device has kept him alive. And not only alive, but minus his heart, he's perfectly healthy. He considers himself very lucky having caught the disease before it killed him and is still AMAZINGLY positive. Hearing him speak, in a sense, made me feel guilty of what I have. But it also makes me grateful as well.

The university of Denver still honored his full ride scholarship and he's now a student coach there. He was also drafted in NHL by the Toronto Lightening, who picked him in the 7th and final round, so that one day he could tell his grandchildren that he was a pro hockey player, even with this disease.

There is a point to my many words...I promise. We complain about weather. We complain about missing classes. We complain about not having internet on our bus. And sometimes we even complain when there's turkey sandwiches but not PB and J. But, moral of the story, one of these days, we'll still GET to play. David, like many others out there, have no choice...he can't ever play hockey again. He doesn't just miss a game here and there because of WEATHER: He misses every game because there's always the risk of WHETHER or not his heart will stop. So, I think we're pretty lucky, even with the snow still falling in April. Stressing about weather or whether or not we'll be stopping to eat on the way home...even missing a game or even a season because we're injured...is minor. Very minor...

David left us all with one remark and it's the one I'll leave with you. "If you have the disease, consider yourself lucky to have found about it while you were still living. If you don't have the disease, consider yourself lucky because now, there is no excuse for you to not push yourself to be the best you can possibly be."

So yeah, our situation isn't ideal...but I'll take this any day over many other things...

Until Next Time...

Em

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