This past year has been amazing for me at Field Gulls. When I originally proposed the idea of This Week in Defense (TWID) to Danny Kelly, following the success of my article on the Falcons loss at the end of last season, I couldn't have imagined how well it would be received and how much fun this season would be to cover. The last few months have been tough though, as my time had been stretched between my passion for football and a pretty intense personal journey that began a little over six months ago.
For the benefit of those who are unaware, I have Cerebral Palsy. It essentially means that there was bleeding in my brain that caused the area that controls motor function to become damaged. Things like walking, even typing and talking can be difficult at times, especially so if I become excited or nervous. An easier way to think of it is like this: I tell my brain to relax for an x-ray and my brain says "You wanna do a somersault, come on, it'll be wicked cool and everyone will be so impressed." It's of course a bit more complicated and there can be varying degrees of severity, but you get the idea.
Another thing that has been part of me for the last 31 years of my life is a congenitally dislocated elbow in my left arm. This means one of the two connective bones in my arm that go to the elbow joint was dislocated while in the womb and grew in that fashion until I was born, leaving said bone up against the bottom of my elbow joint. After years of doctor visits and believing nothing could be done, I brought it up once more last August when complaining about numbness in my left hand. The local doctor said he wanted to refer me out to someone that possibly had more experience with the type of surgery they were talking about.
In the meantime, TWID started the regular season after some looks at last year's key games. I really liked how things were shaking out, and you, the readership, were helping me grow. Every week was new and interesting, especially the Texans win and the Colts loss, and I got so drawn into the season that I had almost forgotten I had talked to the doctor about my arm at all, then a call came in.
After nearly two months the surgeon wanted to see me up in Bellevue at UW Medicine to do an evaluation. I was excited just at the opportunity to see someone and find out if this could be fixed. I vaguely shared with Danny about the possibility of surgery, leading him to think it might have been bad. This led to a few followup emails as I informed him that it wasn't serious and he graciously accepted my situation, sudden as it was.
I went up for evaluation and despite being a WSU Cougar could not have felt more welcomed by the fantastic staff. The doctor had the most upbeat attitude while he explained what he felt the chances of surgical success were, warning that there would be pain involved and different use issues. As he put it, "You've used your arm this way for 31 years it's going to take a lot of work to change that."
I knew I was going to do it as soon as he said the only consequence was pain - I'm not a wimp, you see. I filled out the paperwork to have surgery that same day and went home to mentally prepare myself for the next steps in my journey.
I told Danny the news and he was extremely supportive and for that I can't thank him enough. TWID kinda got compressed into two games per article, as prep work and appointments before surgery kept my focus stretched. I felt bad, because I wanted to give you guys a full experience of each of those games - especially Rams & Bucs, but again Danny made sure to let me know my work was appreciated and so did you guys.
So fast forward now to a week after surgery. I'm absolutely miserable and the pain killers are making me feel sick, so I'm pretty much chair-ridden, unable to climb into my nice tall queen sized bed because I only have one arm, and so getting in and out of bed was impossible without a massive amount of help. My cousin, Dyanna, had been staying with me over night to make sure I could reach the bathroom and other such necessities, as using crutches had been my main mode of transportation. So by this stage, we're both exhausted and grouchy a bit, though she hid it better than I did.
The next thing I know it's Wednesday morning, and her and I always listen to the Brock and Danny show. It's something nice and entertaining when you don't really have much to talk about in the mornings. I looked over at her from my chair noticing that she had been staring at her phone. I asked her what was going on and her response was "Ok that was weird." After pressing further, "That was Tom Wassel, I guess I got put in the raffle for Monday Night Football tickets."
Now full disclosure here, I always, always, always, ALWAYS, make fun of her for texting in for any contests, saying she can't possibly win. She won.
In and out of a painkiller haze, I had the chance to hear the announcement and spent the next two hours in shock. Then, the phone calls started to tell everyone the amazing news, the chart topper being that I was scheduled to go up to Seattle get my stitches out of my elbow on said Monday. Amazing coincidence right there.
The only other time I've been able to attend a Seahawks game had been a 2008 preseason game against the Raiders - it was an amazing experience, but no way did it even come close to the Monday Night Massacre I was about to witness. Barely two hours after getting my stitches out of my elbow and slapping a huge protective pad on that bitch, I was sitting in the club section getting ready to watch the 2013 Seahawks go beat the crap out of the Saints. All this thanks to the kind folks who made sure a one-armed, wheelchair-bound dude could stomp on all their feet accidentally as I used a line of hands to hobble to my seat.
For those who have not been, the noise is incredible. I don't mean the shouting when the Saints are on offense. There are chants, cheers, jeers, rolling boos, the pregame noise was fun and amazing, then came kickoff. I cannot explain in words just how different this team is to watch live, the speed you see on TV isn't even close to what it looks like live. I could tell after the first two drives that the Saints had no answer for it. Tim Ryan had the audacity to call the Seahawks an undersized defense last week against the Rams, but I can tell you, they look huge and intimidating in person. Richard Sherman seems downright gigantic.
Around about the start of second quarter, when the Saints had around just 11 yards of offense, my left arm started to feel really funny. It wasn't painful and it was only later that I realized that my arm, which had been bent in a consistent "L" shape for 31 years, had begun to straighten by itself. I can't describe how it felt, except to say muscles and tendons in my arm began to move to a more normal position and I felt like I was holding a huge rubber band, my life was literally changing while watching Russell Wilson shredded Cover-0 looks with both Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller.
The halfway point of the third quarter brought friendly jeering of Saints fans in our section - nothing profane - and even some apologies from some, knowing these people had probably paid to see this (then) 24-7 beat down. I was really too cold and stiff to do anything but stand and yell when the Seahawks' swarming defense took the field. (A small side note, my cousin Dyanna and I think Jimmy Graham is fat.)
This was supposed to be a close game, a big game. I'm glad it wasn't though; it made it easier on my recovering body and for much less tension around me as I watched the Seahawks' defense swarm a Darren Sproles' screen. I sighed in relief and relaxed for the rest of the night. I couldn't have guessed that fate would have one final surprise from my surgery that night.
After waiting about an hour or so to let the stadium clear and getting some phenomenal assistance from the stadium staff, my cousin and I made it back to her van. Toes and hands frozen numb and joints stiff as stones, we turned the heater to ninth circle of hell to warm up and turned on 710ESPN to listen to the post game show and press conferences.
I dozed off, having taking some pain medicine, and next thing I know we're picking up gas and some food for the last leg home. I don't know what caused me to do it, or think that I even could, but I was trying to see if my left hand would rotate palm up, which was one of the major goals of the surgery. I didn't get that result, unsurprisingly, what I did get was much funnier and kept me fascinated for most of the rest of the trip home.
I gave a thumbs down. I have never, ever been able to do that and all I could do was laugh and show my cousin and then stare in awe and reverence for this simple physical action. I may have even giggled carelessly as I will be prone to do when the Seahawks' defense makes a play. It was already a great Christmas despite it being 23 days away.
What did you guys get for Christmas?
A few thank you's: First, to my Cousin Dyanna, who I will especially never mock for texting into contests and for her phenomenal support during my recovery and putting up with me.
To the CenturyLInk staff, who made sure not only that I got into the stadium and was able to find my seat, but made sure I could get back out as well, especially the gentleman who walked me down the stars back to my wheelchair.
To the Brock 'n Danny Show, whose contest for the best seats ever made this unique experience, right after such a rough time in physical recovery, possible.
For those interested, I have posted pics of my battle scars, because that is what guys do.
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