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We're always prepared...until we're not (Post #6)

The majority of football games are either won or lost before the cleats even dig into the freshly cut and painted gridiron. Watching film, studying the playbook, doing all the necessary preparation in order to be as successful as possible is just as important as pure talent when you step onto the field. After the first quarter, each team usually has a better understanding of their opponent. Both teams have taken the time to feel each other out and will make changes to the game plan accordingly. Then there are those games in which you feel like you have done all the preparation in the world, but when you step between the lines, this bigger, badder and meaner opponent just hits you like a ton of bricks and you’re already facing what seems to be an insurmountable deficit. This flesh-eating bacteria that had made a buffet out of my left leg was the scariest foe I had ever faced, you could definitely say that this infection was my 1985 Bears Defense!

I have a very odd relationship with hospitals and I’m sure it isn’t hard to determine why. I have both a never ending feeling of thankfulness as well as a stiffening, overwhelming sentiment of trepidation each and every time I walk through the doors. At sixteen years old, I was hurled into the world of medicine, doctors, rare bacteria and operating rooms; I had to find a way to navigate this new and unknown domain. Oh yeah, and at this point in my life, I had to do it with a hole in my leg. Since the day I first broke my leg on that football field on that hot August day, I never had a chance to really catch my breath and take into consideration everything that was going on. The accident occurred and I was rushed to the emergency room, I had immediate surgery, I went home, something was wrong, back to the hospital, more tests, then surgery, and surgery, and finally more surgery. After I woke up from my initial round of procedures and I saw what remained of my leg, I knew this was going to be one hell of a game. Imagine, it’s high school football on a Friday night, you can hear the roar of the crowd from the locker room, you lace up your cleats, take one last look through the playbook and burst through the doors to take the field. The crisp, autumn air stings your face and lets you know you’re alive. You step onto the field, adrenaline is running high, and then you see your opponent only to realize it’s the New England Patriots standing in front of you. Sure, you tell yourself you can compete, but you’ve never faced a challenge like this. That is how I felt when I woke up in that hospital, I was face to face with the champ of flesh-eating bacteria and I needed a game plan.

The most important aspect of developing a successful game plan is putting together a team of coaches and players who each bring something unique to the table. In football each team has an offensive and defensive coordinator, as well as special teams coaches, and position specialists; it is all about gathering the best individuals for the job. The planning was very similar to what was going on around me when I woke up in that hospital. I had an incredible team of nurses, patient care assistants and doctors, each brought their own set of skills and abilities to the table, and I can say, they were most definitely the Varsity squad! Each day lying in the hospital bed, unable to move, in excruciating pain one minute then soring high on medication the next; I knew I was not prepared for something like this to happen. If it wasn’t for the incredible team of medical professionals, I’m not sure I would still be breathing today. We all have to learn that some days we need all the support in the world. No matter how motivated one may seem, there will still be times in life in which we cannot handle our adversity alone. We are not always meant to handle it alone, which is why I strive to help anyone whenever I have the chance, because I am thoroughly grateful for the support system I had while enduring such a trying and horrifying experience. When you have those days when you just can’t do it, ask for help! Asking for help is in no way a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of understanding and intelligence in relation to what we each face in our lives every day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, neither is the next day, or the next, but I have learned throughout my experience that one thing is certain - we all fall down, and sometimes we need an extra helping hand.

Since my team of medical superhero’s had been assembled, and we had a game plan in place, the next step was to execute that strategy in hopes of defeating my opponent. One of the most frustrating aspects of football is when you are fully prepared, yet something happens that throws all your timely groundwork out of the window and you are left attempting to fight your way to the end zone. There have been numerous times in the sport of football when a team will plan for a certain player, they key in on that athlete as soon as they start their preparation, then out of nowhere, the 3rd string QB steps in and throws for 300 yards and multiple scores! We cannot be prepared for everything; we can put in as much work as possible, but there is always the fear of the unknown. As we began to put the medical game plan into motion, we keyed in on our opponent, we were aware of the strengths and weaknesses and all of my doctors felt fairly confident. As I drifted off to sleep that night and attempted to ignore the abrasiveness of hospital sheets, I closed my eyes and smiled. After a whirlwind of uncertainty, a simple smile was very welcomed, yet short lived as I awoke abruptly in the middle of the night unable to breathe. It felt like that entire 1985 Bear’s defense was sitting on my chest; alarms were going off, doctors and nurses were scurrying in and out of my room and at that point I knew, all of our planning had been thrown out the window. Now I was facing something much different, in addition to fighting a flesh-eating bacteria, it was time to start preparing for that unknown, 3rd string QB as well…

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