Despite your religious beliefs, understanding of science, or theories and philosophies on the soul and the moment we become sentient beings, there is one universal axiom: the minute we emerge from our birth mother's body, our own body announces our arrival to the world via often a nice hearty cry.
At that moment, our body starts becoming a living scrapbook of all of the trials, tribulations, and experiences that map out our existence on this earth. My body tells a tale reminiscent of a modern day Gulliver's Travels, but with way less cannonballs and Lilliputians; and way more light beer, burrito bowls, freckles, and scars.
My body announced its arrival on this earth pre dawn on a September day in the early 1980's. I was born in a hospital on the West Coast, the second child of my parents. I was 23" tall at birth, weighed 9 pounds 14 ounces, and one of the most memorable moments according to my dad was a 4'11" Vietnamese nurse holding me while staring in mild shock and saying "big baby, such a big baby" over and over again.
My wife made me blur out my ween for the wedding slide show. Can't share its magnificence I guess.
I was born with jaundice, and had to spend the first few days of my life under the lights. As a result, I never took to breastfeeding and was a purely formula baby. Jokes on you, best friend of mine who used "you were breast fed until you were 11" as a reason for me beating him in a lift-off at the gym.
Check out this cute little stinker hanging out on his mustard yellow 3" shag carpet
Things were smooth sailing until I was 2 and a half. At that point, I cheated death for the first of a few times in my life.
While visiting my parent's friends, I was playing in their backyard and splashing in a dirty fish pond. I soon ended up with a fever of eleventy billion, and ended up in the ER. Over the next few days, I fought meningitis and fought for my life.
Despite losing a third of my bodyweight in a matter of days, I made it through to the other side. My mom's friends son had meningitis the year before I did, and ended up permanently deaf. Comparitively speaking, I got pretty lucky. I have some balance issues, and I used to have seizures when I was younger. Otherwise, pretty darn good.
I survived the next few years of life in British Columbia unscathed, just to move to New Zealand which essentially was the Wild West when it came to child rearing.
Two major highlights on my body's journey that I would like to share:
1. The breaking of my collarbone, the story which is told in this blog post
2. The losing of my front tooth:
We moved a lot in New Zealand. Probably eight times in five years? The different schools are a bit of a blur. There was one of them where a major incident really sticks out, because of its permanent consequences. In this particular school, for some reason, lumber was decided to be the ultimate play equipment. Maybe the principal owned a lumber mill, maybe the school board used free labor to cut down and process trees, who knows.
One day on the playground, we built an epic log cabin style fort. We stacked lumber in a square around us, other than leaving a door, until the walls were over our head. One kid offered to build a roof for us. Awesome! I remember hearing my name, looking up, and seeing him thrust down with a piece of lumber in an overhead stabbing motion right down into my face. Downside of being the tall kid with the glorious flowing rat tail I guess? I took it directly in the nose and mouth. I remember it not really hurting, me being upset that someone just hit me for no reason, and me also wondering why for some reason my mouth and nose were crying too.
I wiped my tears, and then my nose and mouth. I pulled my arm away expecting wet, and instead saw a copious amount of blood. I began shrieking.
This boy had managed to loosen most of my front teeth, and knock one of my two top adult front teeth cleanly out. This gap caused me troubles for the next 25 years. What a dick. More on that later, I am sure.
Bonus story: Don't mess with a boy's Tonka
While we lived in New Zealand, my dad used to send the most giant and epic boxes of presents for Birthdays and Christmases. Picture boxes the size of what a dishwasher would come in, full of stuff that was 50% for you. This was extra appreciated, because we were living on dairy farms more often than not, and had very little beyond time and our imagination.
One year, my dad sent some epic metal Tonka Trucks for birthday/Christmas. Dump truck, digger, bulldozer, the works.
I'm pretty sure it was this exact set
We had a HUGE fenced in sand pit at the same school that had the DIY lumber playground. I somehow convinced my mom to let me take my new Tonka stuff to school to play with for the first time. An older kid in my sister's class, who was a bit unkempt and kind of an asshole named Dwayne watched me through the fence for a minute or two. He then asked if he could play. HEY AN OLDER FRIEND I think to myself, and say sure. I guess I forgot about collarbone breaker?
Dwayne walks in, takes the digger middle left, and plays with it for about 10 seconds. He then stands up, pulls the bucket arm straight, and stomps on it snapping it clean off with a cackling laugh. I guess Dwayne doesn't like it when other people have nice things.
I stand up in a complete blood curdling rage, and hoof a cackling Dwayne in the nuts as hard as I can. At this point I am playing solely soccer and known for how far I can kick the ball. Dwayne goes down like a sack of potatoes and stays down. I'm rushed inside by a teacher to get me away from the guttural moan emanating from his otherwise unmoving body. Dwayne leaves in an ambulance. Rumours of hospital and surgery float around. I never see him again between that day and us moving away a few months later.
Scoreboard so far: Jaundice, check. Meningitis, check, Broken collarbone, check. Lost front tooth, check.
At some point, my mom gets sick of my stepdad doing all the smashing and screaming and hitting and threatening and somehow got him out of our house for a period of time. He moves into a trailer park. We get a ton of freedom as my mom now has to work as much as she can to pay the bills. She is working 45 minutes out of town running a retirement home in the closest city and bringing home cold McDonald's to heat up (which is the best thing ever when you're eight and don't otherwise get McDonald's. One day, I am riding my bike around the neighbourhood. No helmet, of course. I'm distracted by the million things running through my mind, and go to cross the road without doing a shoulder check first. BAM I pull in front of a car and get hit and go flying. I skid down the road on my chin about ten feet. Car stops, lady gets out SCREAMING at me because I have apparently scared her kids and they are shrieking. She then stops when she realizes I'm not getting up and there's a pool of blood forming around my head. Pre cell phone rural New Zealand days, she loads me up in her car beside her shrieking kids with something to hold over my filleted chin. She asks where she can take me. I tell her my mom's 45 minutes out of town. Asks for the number. I have no idea. Asks who else is in town. I tell her my stepdad. We go to his trailer park. He isn't home. Off drinking somewhere I am sure, or passed out drunk and not answering the door. She asks who else is around? Next people I know are my Oma and Opa who live on the North Island of New Zealand. This lady ends up having to take me to the doctor to get my chin sewed back together, and then to her house to have dinner and stay with them until my mom returned from out of town and could collect me with my sewed up face.
Think I learned my lesson? Think again. I got hit by a car one more time. Luckily it was by someone backing out of their driveway between two hedges, and I only fell off my bike and skinned the heck out of my knees and feet since I was riding in shorts and flip flops (New Zealanders call them "jandals"). Those are number two and three on the "I could've died" list.
Number four was more mental than physical damage. We used to play at our same rural Wild West schoolyard on weekends. There was a wood shed with a tin roof. We realized we could climb on the roof. We peeled back a corner of it and realized we could jump down inside. The possibilities were endless.
We were playing with another neighbourhood kid one day, crazy Robert. He was my best friend. We saw two guys riding by on a four wheeler ATV. One of them yelled something at us. Robert yelled back "FUCK YOU" because some eight year olds are assholes. The guy on the back pulled a machete out of his belt and yelled something menacing about using it in unkind ways on the three of us. Thinking quickly, I convinced Robert and my sister to join me in the wood shed. We climbed onto the roof and scurried inside. A few moments later, we heard the ATV pull up outside of the shed and the two men swearing while looking for us.
Near death experience number five involved swimming in the ocean that was a block from our house. We packed a lunch, which we ate on the beach. By me, I mean my sister and I with no adults. The beach had a salt water pool that was filled by the ocean tide. I hopped in right after eating, and quickly got a huge cramp. I started drowning until I looked up at a woman reaching to me from over the wall. She pulled me out of the water. I cried, puked, cried some more, and went home. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to get hit for not waiting 30 minutes before swimming. A few days later, there was a story in the weekly local paper about a near drowning at the beach. My mom did the math that we were there that day, and asked if we saw it happen. I said "yeah mum, it was me. That lady saved my life."
The pool still exists to this day. The fence on the beach side is new since I was a kid. I'm guessing some people must have fell in.
Shortly thereafter, we move to Canada with my dad. He takes me to a dentist with his sweet sweet government benefits, and they take one look at my teeth and cancel all of the rest of their appointments.
My gap has been allowed to grow closed as my head and mouth continued to grow. My grill is JACKED up. I spend the next four years with braces, a retainer and overbite mouthguard at night, and a spring loaded spacer in my gap so that they can start trying to make room for a denture. When my dad retires from the RCMP 3 and a half years later, the process wasn't done yet. But those things came out because they weren't covered anymore . Classic Dmc I tell ya.
We got my dentist so paid that she ended up giving us keg and movie theatre gift certificates every year for Christmas for the next three years. The government probably bought her a new Corvette on my mouth.
The only other battle scars from this period of time I can think of were self inflicted. I ended up with a funky scar on my foot from going to a big water park in Vancouver on a church youth group trip, cutting my foot, and getting it wet on the log flume ride. I ended up with two scars on my arm, one which you can still see today, because I wanted to impress some kids with how tough I was by heating up a lighter I stole from my dad and branding myself with it. Twice.
I manage to go from nine until seventeen with only one close call. A friend and I were driving in his car when we were 17, when a lady pulled a left turn in front of us and hit us head on. Luckily, he was driving a Pontiac 6000, which was a total battle tank and we were basically unscathed other than the car being wrecked. While waiting for the police and an ambulance, the lady who hit us tried to ask "can I take my kids home and come back? They're hungry." No lady, you can't hit and run some high school kids.
Is that a battle tank? Or a responsible early 90s family sedan?
Next near death experience happened at 17. I tore my ACL after 7 games of my last season of high school basketball. It went undiagnosed for four months, and the surgeon only noticed it went I went for a consult for a scope to find out why it wasn't healing.
I was supposed to go to North Carolina for summer training before my freshman year in the US a few days later. My surgeon booked me for an ACL repair the next day, and it was decided I would hang out and get paid to rehab and hang out with my teammates.
Once I got down there, I was placed in front of "Dr. Rick", who was introduced to me as the team doctor. I handed him the rehab protocol from world famous surgeon Dr. Peter Fowler, and he threw it in the trash without even looking at it. "I know what I'm doing" he tells me.
A few days later, Dr. Rick announces it's time for my stitches to come out. He calls my surgeon's office because he doesn't recognize them. He doesn't get through, and decides to cut them out anyways. He then puts me in the pool for some pool walking. It feels good to be off crutches for an hour. The next day, I find myself feeling gross while helping keep score at our team camps for high school kids. I head back to my dorm room for a nap and the next thing I know I wake up soaking wet with a room full of people, including paramedics peering at me. I had fallen asleep and stayed asleep for 19 hours while I sweated off what they estimate around 10 pounds of fever sweat. When no one has heard from me and I don't answer the phone or door, they had to get a locksmith to get in. They rush me to the hospital and find out that my knee is the size of a basketball. Staph infection. Emergency surgery. Two days in a private room in the hospital waiting for a flight back to Toronto. Fly to Toronto. Ambulance to London. Six weeks in university hospital. Three more surgeries. A picc line with a giant bag around my neck pumping antibiotics into me 24 hours a day. Ten months on crutches. I came back and played. It wasn't the same by any means, but I played university basketball both in the US and Canada, and did so on my own terms.
I'm a Survivor like Jeff Probst
While in North Carolina, a friend and I were victims of armed robbery. We got a phone call from a buddy that he was super drunk and needed a ride home from a bar, in a city with no transit. We told him to meet us outside in 20, because he didn't have a cell phone. We got there five minutes early and were sitting in the parking lot with the windows down and music playing, enjoying a nice summer breeze. Next thing we know, a man is walking towards the drivers side window, calling out a question while he walked. Once he got to the window, he thrust a gun into my friend's face.
I look to my right, and someone had snuck up behind me and stuck a gun in my face too. "This is strictly business" they tell us. "You know what to do" they instruct us. I think that splattered all over my buddy's Mitsubishi Montero, 700 miles from home is a shitty way to die. They are happy with my buddy's watch, cell phone, and wallet with $800 cash after I am only able to offer them $20 and my student ID in my velcro wallet. They take off running. We call police. There's no cameras and nothing they can do. They ask us to come and look at photos. We can only tell them "black men with guns". No point putting someone uninvolved away by accident. I call my dad and beg to come home. He tells me to tough it out.
I come back to Western at the end of the year as a transfer player, where I assume it's more safe. In my second year on the team, we go out drinking in downtown London one night. We end up at Stobie's after the bar. While the four of us are in line, we hear a group of white fratty looking guys behind us making fun of our Spanish friend's accent.
We fire back with some solid burns of our own. Their response? "we will see you guys outside." They leave. We get our pizza, because Stobie's is the bomb. One of the guys I am with calls two other friends to come meet up with us, because there were 10-12 guys in the group that just left and only four of us.
We walk outside munching on our slices, and see this big group of guys actually waiting for us. Luckily a cab pulls up and two other Western football players jump out. Western football and basketball vs the brothers of Tri-Lam, take one.
Apparently, Stobie's staff looks outside and sees Armageddon and calls 911. They describe it as a "riot" and every available downtown unit is dispatched. 22 squad cars and 2 paddy wagons show up. I get hog tied and thrown in the back of the paddy wagon. Fortunately, as a Ceeps bouncer, our Labatt rep was walking by and recognized me and saw the whole thing. He convinces the police to let me go. A whole bunch of ambulances show up for the other guys. I end up at a friend's downtown apartment, pounding on the door because I have lost my wallet and phone and don't know how I am going to get home. He answers, and is mortified by the amount of blood on my shirt. I panic too. It turns out it's not mine at all. We find my phone in my back pocket, shattered. It turns out that drunk me decided that the equalizer was to place it in my hand to make my punches more effective. My dad had told me about prisoners placing a roll of dimes in their hand prior to prison fights. That shit worked.
As this happened on a Thursday night, I go to class the next morning for an important lecture. I notice that my hand is the size of a pork tenderloin and I can't really move my fingers to type notes. I go to the student clinic. I find out my hand is broken. Out for the season. No surgery required, and the bone healed. But I do have a big lump of bone where it broke to this day.
On my 24th birthday, I could've died. In 2007, Facebook in London was new and awesome. As the head of security at one of the most popular downtown bars, I had lots of Facebook friends. They all found out it was my birthday pretty easily. They all saw us at Jim Bob Rays that night. There was a drink placed in front of me by what seemed like half the bar. I didn't turn any of them down. Free birthday drinks are free birthday drinks after all .
The end of the night comes. I get a text from someone inviting me to come to a different bar for a birthday drink at last call. I can barely stand. My friends start trying to walk me to a cab. I break free from them, and run away towards Barneys. I trip over my feet and am falling. My brain doesn't tell my hands that I am falling until I land flat on my face in the middle of Central Ave. I get up, tell everyone I am okay. I realize the bottom half of my face is feeling funny and misdirected. My natural reaction is to straighten it. CRUNCCHHHHH. I realize I am bleeding everywhere and panic. My friends call an ambulance and hold me up against a telephone pole because they don't want me to pass out if I sit down.
I end up in the hospital, where I un black out 4 hours later in the Emerg with an IV in each arm trying to sober me up for surgery, and no shirt on because it was so bloody they had to throw it out. Apparently I had spent the last four hours apologizing to every single person who walked by for how drunk I was, despite having a jaw broken in three places and my upper lip and already scarred chin stitched back together. A nurse wrote "I'M SORRY" in permanent marker on my arm and asked me to point to it because I was risking more damage by talking with both sockets fractured. No bueno, I'm gonna get my apologize on. Here's my mug four days later, when I finally got my surgery after being bumped for higher priority cases three straight days. No food until 11 pm and then blended everything was AWFUL.
Since my jaw, I've also re broke my hand in a fight working at the bar, and had two more knee surgeries, one major major major one. I was told by my physio at 28 I would never run again and would have a knee replacement within ten years. I never saw her again, but emailed her a picture of me at the Run For The Cure finishing line the following fall. There are stories behind them, but this is already a fourteen minute read.
I also have five tattoos. I got my wife's name in a Japanese symbol on my upper back the day before our wedding. I then found out four months later it was upside down, and it's now way bigger and more shaded to cover the old one up properly. I have the New Zealand silver fern, and the Maori word for family on my back too, to honour my New Zealand family for always having my back.
Getting my NZ tat in NZ on New Year's Day on top of a horrible Christmas Day sunburn. There's no story with the back of my head, I'm just a lumpy freak.
I also have my three kids names all down my side, in a nice gothic script. I hope to get more tattoos in the future.
I am covered in freckles from a childhood spent outdoors not worried about the sun or sunscreen. They are EVERYWHERE.
I have sprained my ankles no less than 30 times, as I have the highest arches on the planet and very little surface foot area to land on. My file at Fowler Kennedy sports medicine between my ankles, my knee, and my two broken hands is MASSIVE. As of my last trip there, I was in vaunted "second file" status. I had my adenoids removed when I was five or six.
I almost drowned again when I was four or five. My mom sent me to play outside at our new house, which came with a pool and pogo sticks hanging on the wall of the pool shed. It was Octoberish and the pool was covered. My mom was inside watching Price Is Right. I pulled down a pogo stock and figured it out. Bounce bounce bounce bounce SPLASH right into the pool. Somehow she managed to look out and see me struggling with the pool blanket in the water and pull me out.
In my adult life I've weighed as little as 245 pounds and as much as 330 pounds. I have not mastered controlling my emotions without using eating as a crutch, but I am getting there.
My dad was a terrible role model when it came to physical health. He never exercised. He smoked like a chimney and drank Molson Canadian like a fish drinks ocean water. He had diabetes, epilepsy, and arthritis. He succumbed to complications from a blood infection after eight years of battling like the stubborn mule he was, confined to a wheelchair as mostly a quadriplegic, with a feeding tube and a breathing tube. He was 65. His close friend from high school ran every day. Once I moved to Old South, he ran past my house daily. One day, we didn't see him. The next day either. The day after that I pulled up the London Free Press website and found out he had died of a heart attack at 64.
My body and its tattoos, lumps, bumps, and scars tells my story. Life has bent it but not broken it. People have tried to cause horrible things to happen to it, but it has only been temporary. My body is my living testament to what it takes to be unbreakable, to live with resilience, integrity, and honesty. My body has been the biggest asset I've had in terms of opening doors, creating opportunities, and making me the man I am today. It still has a lot of miles left on it, and I don't plan on ever taking it for granted ever again. My body is my vehicle to a life filled with love and laughter with my wife and kids. The life I have always dreamed about, through the darkest days and most tenuous moments where I wasn't sure if the following day was guaranteed. Much like we put gas in our car, air in our tires, and mechanics service our cars to keep them on the road, I am going to take care of this body by making sound decisions, putting only quality things into it like healthy food, books, and exercise, and ensuring it's always strong healthy and ready to protect care for and nurture the ones I love.