On Almost Dying, and Why I'm Thankful For It
Every fighter out there assuredly knows the risks they face before they step in the ring. It's unlikely that something severe will happen, but it's a price most are willing to pay in order to possibly get a taste of what glory feels like, albeit fleeting.
As a Muay Thai fighter, I always assumed that someday I would suffer a serious injury. I figured I would eventually break a bone, tear my ACL, or endure some equally unpleasant physical ailment. The thought of having my worst injury be to my brain never even crossed my mind (besides the unsettling question of whether I would, and still may, suffer from CTE later in life). But, the universe decided to throw me a curveball. One that I'm thankful for now, although still hard to process.
Saturday, August 10th, I fought on a local Muay Thai card, against a solid opponent. The fight was fun, and I felt great throughout, never getting dropped or even rocked. Plenty of action, but nothing that would spark suspicion that something had gone wrong.
Saturday, April 20th, I fought on another local Muay Thai card, again against a strong opponent. That fight was a little different. My opponent was much, much faster and sharper than I had expected he would be, and ended up dropping me twice in the second round. I finished the fight, but not without some damage. I would be reminded of this fight for some time, as I suffered from headaches nearly six weeks after. Not fun.
Fast forward to August 10th again, right after the fight, this is where it all starts to get blurry. According to my coach, I began to show symptoms that something was wrong when they tried to take my gloves off in the ring. I had trouble walking down the stairs to exit the ring, and was immediately diagnosed with a concussion by the ringside doctor. They attempted to bring me backstage to the basement of the arena (which was our warm-up area), but I couldn't make it up the stairs of the stage, so they sat me down in the crowd. This probably saved my life, as trying to get a stretcher down the stairs would have been extremely difficult. This is about the last thing I remember. I could see people and hear them, but couldn't talk back, and felt myself leaning all over the place and seeing double. Then it all went black.
The first day I remember is the following Wednesday, though apparently I was awake and talking before then numerous times. I found out I was stretchered out of the arena, and doctors told my Dad that had I arrived five minutes later to the hospital, I probably wouldn't have made it. The diagnosis was a ruptured blood vessel, which led to a brain bleed. The first two weeks in the hospital didn't seem real, although the 70 staples in my head sure did. I felt as though I was experiencing it, but eventually I would wake up and be transported back to my "real" life". This is undoubtedly why I ate so much in there.
After two weeks I was released to go home and live with my Dad & step-mom. I was relieved to get out of the hospital, but soon found myself really struggling with my new life. There was no working out, no working on my business, no driving, and really almost nothing that I had gotten so used to doing for the past few years. I felt better every day, but also worse, as I found myself longing for the freedom that I felt I was once again ready for. I am SO thankful to them for taking me in (love you guys!), but to have everything that I loved doing be taken from me was something that made life extremely difficult at times. There were some dark days, and sometimes I found myself thinking what the point of it all was. But other days, and increasingly so, I found myself feeling extreme gratitude for what happened, or at least what happened as a result of it.
The support from my friends, family, team, and even people I've never met has absolutely blown me away. It's hard to put into words what emotions it brings up, and how grateful I am for everyone who has helped in any way. I am no doubt still here today because of the outpouring of love that has been shown nonstop since the injury.
There are still dark times, and it will be a long road before I'm close to being back to how I was before, physically and mentally. But, I'm grateful for what the injury has taught me. I'm learning patience (arguably the hardest lesson I've ever learned), but also about what's really important in life. I was always someone who did most things on my own. My friends knew that's just how I was, and learned to assume that I probably wouldn't be doing what everyone else would come the weekend. I focused on myself, and thought it was more important than spending time with the people who loved me.
Since the accident, my entire worldview has changed. I consider myself incredibly lucky to still be here, and have a newfound reminder of how short life is and can be. And when I lay on my death bed, I doubt I'll lay there wishing I spent more time working, working out, or without the people who I love. I'll want to know I spent my time with those who supported and loved me through the hardest time of my life. In a weird way, I'm thankful it happened, because I doubt I would have come to that conclusion without some sort of catalyst.
Life is and will forever be different now than it was before. But, that doesn't mean it can't be as good. I think it'll be even better.