Monday, November 1, 2010

Your Story: "The Comeback Kid"

This next story simply made me say, "wow!" Bendigo's journey is painful, yet completely inspirational. I hesitate to put my words in front of this story, as it couldn't do it justice. When we think we had it tough growing up, read this over again. I've read it 3 times already, totally in awe of his strength.

Add Your Story by emailing me at Again, I don't have an 'end date,' so... you send it, I'll post it!

Enjoy The Comeback Kid...

When I was in 7th grade I had meningitis. It was bacterial and they were unsure if I would live through the ordeal. I lost 40 pounds and missed most of my 7th grade year. To say that it was a scary time in my life would be a lie. I was oblivious to the danger associated with this illness. I was a kid and my
thoughts were limited to when I would see my friends again, when I would have to go to class again, and more importantly when I would be able to play sports again.

After a lengthy stay in the hospital (weeks) I was finally told that I was on the road to recovery and could go home. My parents were, I'm sure, happier than I was. They would no longer have to take turns at the hospital watching over me day and night.There was always one or the other of them either in my room or in the waiting room. They wouldn't let them sleep in my room, so the waiting room became a temporary bedroom for one of the two.

So I get home and I am unable to walk. Weeks in a hospital bed fighting for my life had left me with not much in the way of muscle mass. I had shrunk from 110 lbs to around 70 lbs. I am a big boned person, and for that matter I was a rather big boned kid. Never tall, but what they would usually call husky. I didn't know fat till I was an adult (or at least late teen). I was able to hide the fact that I was so thin by wearing sweaters if I had to. Without a shirt though I look emaciated. There is no better way to describe the skeleton that was me without a shirt to hide my ribs.

I had to learn how to walk again. I developed strength in my arms fairly fast, but I had no coordination, and my brain didn't tell my legs to work the way they should. I became a monkey of sorts, simply dragging myself from couch to chair to table to get around the family room and kitchen. It wasn't through any great
will power on my part to be able to walk again except for the promise that my father made to me. I once asked when I got home if I would be able to play football next season. His answer was simple: If I could run and do all the things every other kid my age was able to do, AND if the doctor said it was ok he would allow it. My father told me later that there was no way he was going to let me play football after all that they had been through with me. I accepted the answer and began my own private rehab. I would sit on my bed at night and stand myself up. Sit back down. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Thousands of times I did that just to get some strength in my legs. It worked fairly well, and soon I was able to get to the bathroom without hollering for someone to bring me in (now that is freedom).

A home tutor was brought into my house and I began my schooling once again. Mrs. Moreno was my teacher -  an angel in disguise. She gave me no pity, and didn't accept my BS excuses for not getting something done. She told me that I could do it or give up. It didn't matter to her because she was paid all the same. If I wanted to quit that was fine with her, she didn't expect much more out of a boy anyway. Well that was all I needed as far as motivation went. She pushed exactly the right buttons to make me want to excel. Not just because I wanted to get better, but I wanted to prove to her that I was no quitter. I struggled daily with the lessons, and she was there to offer help when she knew
I was in over my head. She quietly helped me through the hardest hurdle in my young life.

Walking was pretty normal now and I was able to visit friends. Well, they were able to visit me. I wasn't let out of my parents sight for more than a few minutes at a time unless I was in "class". Eventually, I was allowed to get out in the front yard and not long after, was playing catch with a friend. And then
me and my dad were playing catch again. That in itself was one of the most awesome feelings in my life. The first time my dad heard me ask if he wanted to have a catch, he told me that it might not be a good idea yet. I explained to him that I had been playing catch for a couple weeks and thought he might want to join in finally. Reluctantly, he accepted and the smile on his face the first time I threw the ball back was from ear to ear. It didn't take but a couple of days of this before we were playing burnout again (throw it back and forth as hard as you can till somebody drops it).

In no time, I was back at school to finish up the 7th grade. I got to be involved in the last quarter of the year. I might add that I had 4 F's a D and an A that quarter. My wonderful home teacher had begun teaching me from the wrong place in our books, and I was completely lost. I didn't care though. I was just happy to be
back in school. I should also explain that my one A was in Physical Education. I was able to play all the sports that everybody else did, and I promise I was dressed out for P.E. every day.

Summer came and we were pretty much back to normal. I got tired sometimes, but not enough to notice. I was also still doing my silly stand up sit down exercise, but now I was doing it from the ground. I also added a jump to it. I would sit on the ground and then stand up, jump as high as I could, then sit back down. Over and over again, I did these in the bedroom before bed. It was my one way to exercise in private without anybody knowing I was doing it. I wanted to be ready to try out for football, and this was something to help - or so I thought.

With a month of Summer left, football sign-ups came. I asked my father if I could try out and his response was NO! I called him a liar, and ran out of the house. He chased after me and yelled for me to come back. I would have no part of that. I ran out of the cul de sac and down the street, with my father trying to catch up. After about 3 blocks I got tired and started walking. I turned
around and my father wasn't following anymore. I figured I had a little time before he caught up so I wasn't too concerned. I was just mad that he didn't do like he said. Not more than a couple of minutes later there was my dad in the car telling me to get in. I didn't say a word I just climbed in. We drove straight to the family doctor (yeah there used to be those guys back then). He
gave me a physical and told my dad that I was as healthy as you could hope for. The next Saturday I was signed up for football!

I was scared during those first weeks of tryouts. What if I couldn't keep up? What if my coordination wasn't back? What if I just wasn't good enough anymore? I made the team, and was put on second string. Now normally I would have been pretty upset by that. I had always been a starter before this, but figured that
maybe I had lost a step since I was so sick all that time. It didn't take long for me or the coaches to see that I was still the same player I always was. I was moved up to first string before the first scrimmage, and there I stayed.

The first game is the only one I can remember from that season. I was petrified. I hadn't been face to face with another team since before I was sick. All those doubts came back to me in a flash. What if was everywhere. Our coach huddled us up and told us all the normal pre game garbage. Pumping us up and getting our
blood boiling. We all broke out of the huddle in a frenzy, ready to kill anything and everything. My coach grabbed me and took me to the side. He explained to me that I shouldn't be nervous. I didn't know it showed, but he obviously saw it. He told me I was ready, slapped me on the helmet, and let me go back to the team.  My blood pressure had to be reaching stroke level by this time. I made my first tackle, making everything ok after that. I was calm and back in my element. The game went by fairly smoothly for the first half. The second half came and one of the coaches told me I looked tired, and was taking me out. The head coach would have none of it. He told me if I was tired to get off his field. I told coach I wasn't tired and wanted back in. That's all he wanted to hear. Out I went, ready to prove it. First play, they tried to pass. I was a short guy back then, and most quarterbacks tried their luck against me. They didn't figure I was fast enough or tall enough to intercept their passes.....WRONG! I interecepted the ball and ran back about 30 yards before I was tackled. That was the icing on the cake for me. We won by a ton that game, but I don't even remember the score.

At then end of the season, we were at our party to see who would get the awards for best offensive and defensive players. Top rusher and all that good stuff. Coach came out and told us that he had a special one to present. He called me up front and gave me a plaque that was presented to The Comeback Kid....I received
the most inspirational player award that day. No award before or since has meant more to me than that one. He told all the parents and players that day that he was inspired by a 7th grader who gave everything he had to be a part of this team. I was embarrassed by all of the goo he was slinging, but I walked away with my award, and my head held high. Nothing is impossible if you believe enough...

There's always Hope.

This is a story that I'm told is worth telling, and was truly a defining moment in my life.  To this day, when things are a bit tough, I can draw on this experience, and remember there's always hope. While it was nice to have so many others who supported me, I realized that at the end of the day, believing in myself and what I was going to do, made the difference.

Hope is an awesome thing.


Bendigo said...

thanks for letting me share my story Dayne..

Rettakat said...

This story really touched me. It's amazing to think of that level of determination, coming from anyone, yet this was from a 7th grader!!

I read it to my husband, and he said it was very motivating to him... to never give up and to keep trying.

Thank you for sharing your story, Bendigo. I won't soon forget it!


Dayne Gingrich said...

This story is so amazing, isn't it? Bendigo's battle is more than inspiring.

Better Man said...

this story is very inspiring