As you may or may not know, my physical condition has deteriorated enough that I’ve been sent to the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange. I have no idea how long this will be my temporary place of residence. Doctors have not given me a timetable, other than that I will eventually recover and hopefully, as God is willing, that I will walk again. Maybe I might even walk out of Kessler.
But it is good that I’m finally getting the medical treatment that I so desperately needed. I have fallen too many times to count. The last time was last Monday, when I toppled over in my driveway en route to physical therapy, landing on my bad knee and ankle and hitting my head on the macadam.
That was the last straw. I could not live at home in that condition. I couldn’t continue to struggle with a walker with the hope that I would eventually get better. Coming to Kessler was the last straw.
I figured it was a great institution _ perhaps the best rehab/healing hospital in the area. If it was good enough to treat Christopher Reeve and my man Eric Legrand, then it had to be good enough for me _ and I’m not even close to being in the same condition that they were when they came to Kessler.
What has transpired since has been nothing short of amazing. First, the medical staff and physical therapy staff here are amazing, caring, tough-as-nails, considerate and helpful people.
I may have been poked, prodded and pushed every way known to man, but I know that it’s all for my betterment and eventual recovery. Already, in just four days, I’ve seen signs that I’m getting better. My right leg, almost useless upon my arrival, is moving better. I’m doing leg raises and lifts. I’m walking with the walker almost 500 yards a day.
I was told that I had to be able to push myself in order to recover. I didn’t need to hear that message twice. I was going to do whatever they said _ and then some.
There’s been a huge range of emotions since I started having leg issues and subsequently falling. I had to give up several of my work assignments.
Now, that was a very emotional setback. As anyone who knows me can attest, I love my work. After 32 years, I never once dread the idea of having to do my work in whatever capacity it may have been. Whether it was covering the World Series or the Super Bowl or then covering Little League, I always go at it with the same fervor and excitement.
My friend Mike Moretti once called me “the hardest working sportswriter in New Jersey.” I tend to think of it as being the most fortunate, because I kept getting assignments and worked for about 12 different organizations. I have said that I had more jobs than a Jamaican.
But never did I feel like I was working. I always called it a “poor paying hobby,” because I love the idea that I actually get paid covering sporting events and writing about them.
So when I made the grueling decision that I had to give up working and stop covering events in late September, it took a lot of out me. It triggered a roller coaster of emotions that still exists. I find myself crying for no reason. It has nothing to do with finances _ although I do like to get paid. It’s the camaraderie I felt with my colleagues while covering events. It’s the closeness I’ve felt with coaches and athletes.
Perhaps the biggest gift I’ve received over the years in being a sportswriter is the countless friendships and relationships that I’ve formed. I can’t even begin to count the number. I know it was evident the other day, when I received 325 get well messages on Facebook. None of that exists without choosing my profession, being the big guy with the pen-stained pants and notebook coming toward coaches and athletes, asking questions.
Sure, there have been times I’ve angered people, but it was all part of the job. But most of the time, I am gladly accepted and appreciated _ and that is a gift. Most of the coaches and athletes I’ve covered have become friends, some of which are lasting. Again, a gift.
So I miss that more than anything, other than being at home.
But while I’m here, I’m gathering so much inspiration from my fellow patients, again most of whom are in far worse condition than me.
I got to meet the wonderful Dave Carver, who for years was the coordinator of the softball program in the borough of Madison. Carver ran the program, soup to nuts, and even coached for many years. He beamed with pride that he once coached Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway when she was 10 years old.
Dave suffered a serious fall a few months ago, severing his spinal column. He was told that he was going to be a quadriplegic. But Dave has been here for 12 weeks, pushing himself to the limit. He’s working hard in his therapy every single day. He’s now using his hands and lifting his legs a little. And Tuesday, he’s going home after being here for three months. No question, he’s an inspiration to me.
My roommate is Pete Torres. Pete was an active member of the United States Coast Guard. Three months ago, Pete came home from work, laid down on his couch with a beer and couldn’t get up. His son had to carry him to the hospital.
Pete found out that he has a mass on his spine that is being reduced with radiation. He still cannot walk, but he’s also pushing himself and he’s set to go home to a personal physical therapist Monday.
Pete is also an inspiration to me. So is the elderly man whose wife suffered a massive stroke and he’s here every single day to guide her through her therapy. There’s a strapping former athlete named Gene who fell out of a tree deer hunting, landing on his back and he’s now paralyzed from the waist down. Another young man Devin from Paterson was shot in the spine and he’s also paralyzed.
But they all work hard every single day and they all serve as motivation to me to get better and to come home. If I’m fortunate, I’ll get my life back. I’ll be somewhat as active as I was a few months ago, going to games and practices.
For now, I’m here at Kessler. This is my home. I don’t know how long, but it’s home. I’ll be here with the other patients, all hoping and praying for a miracle, a dream.
Now, as for the sports world, I’ve had enough of this Richie Incognito –Jonathan Martin crap. I cannot comprehend that Martin is being made to look like a villain while Incognito, a piece of trash since his days in high school, is being defended by his teammates.
Bottom line is this: No one should be forced into paying a $15,000 tab for an event he wasn’t even attending. I don’t care about the rituals of the football locker room. That is garbage. If Martin doesn’t want to pay, he shouldn’t pay, even if it was for a pizza and a case of beer.
Incognito was a bad apple during his days with the Rams and was cut because of his attitude, not his play on the field. Same goes for his brief stay in Buffalo. He’s been known as a dirty player and now it’s proven that he’s an a-hole.
But anyone who defends his actions because it is “all part of a football locker room” is complete garbage. How about the Dolphins calling Incognito “an honorary black man.” Say what? That has to anger anyone of color.
Maybe I have to eat my words about the Nets’ trade to get Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, because the two legendary performers and sure-fire Hall of Famers haven’t exactly played like anything but old men for Jason Kidd’s Brooklyn Nets.
The other night, the Nets lost to Washington in a game where Pierce and Garnett both scored four points. Ouch.
The NCAA’s decision to have basketball referees call hand check fouls on every single possession was a complete mistake, never more evidenced by the 73 fouls called at the Seton Hall-Niagara game Saturday night, a game that took almost two and a half hours to play.
The game’s leading scorer, Sterling Gibbs, had 23 points _ 17 of which came from the free throw line. Gibbs is the former Seton Hall Prep standout who spent one year at Texas before transferring back home.