Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Worst 'Pay-It-Forward' EVER

My return to the flat track felt pretty frightening, let's start there. I knew that I wasn't in the best shape but I wasn't scared with my team by my side. My Dark Horses brothers really are the best! I always feel stronger on the track with them. I was excited, I'd scrimmaged, re-passed my skills (as every injured skater should do)... "I should be ready" I kept telling myself. Then the bout day came and I was scared to death!

Me during most of the bout /\

We had our bout against the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen who is an awesome team which have become our "brother" team if-you-will on August 29th 2015. Our team typically plays pretty short so as much as I'd have like to have waited I jumped into the first jam. After a couple of quick jams the Dark Horses were in the lead and I was comfortable on my skates, a couple falls, some butt-clenching moments when I wasn't sure if my leg was really ok or not after falling... soon all that subsided.

Just as I'd gotten over the pre-bout jitters I was out blocking with some of my fellow skaters when I got hit hard from behind and pushed me out of my wall and forward in front of the pack. One of our fill-in skaters was also up there with me so I turned around to see what was going on back in the pack. Exactly as I turned around I see the BHG (Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen) jammer break through the remaining two blockers like a truck and he was headed right for me (us). As a blocker these are the moments you train for... a jammer heading at you full bore ready to freight-train their way over you. I thought ...

BOOM! Myself and the other blocker hit the jammer (my now buddy Hurt U Lees) square in the chest while we were skating backwards... he was toe-stop running at the time. He falls backwards and I start to stand overtop of him to make sure he didn't get any momentum when he got back up... that's when I realized he wasn't getting back up... I was worried that when his head hit the floor it concussed him or something. I wasn't looking at his leg, just at his head as he went down. The jam was whistled dead and I took a knee with my teammates at my bench when one of them said he broke his leg. Immediately I thought...

Hurt was a great sport about it though... after being initially assessed by EMTs on the scene at the bout he was taken out on a shipping pallet to a car to be driven to the hospital. We all lined up to send him off with as much love as we could.
Hurt getting taken to the hospital giving high-5's on his way out!
He was taken to the VA and then over to UK (my place of employment) for his surgery the next day. Hurt was still in the hospital on that Monday... I decided to leave work, take a break and go see him. I owed him at least that. I came into the room with my UK blue shirt and khaki pants on and the conversation went about as follows: 

Me: "Do you remember me...?"
Hurt: "No, are you here about my lunch?"
Me: "Umm... not exactly. I'm Jack Flash... I'm the guy that hit you when you broke your leg."
*I take off my glasses*
Me: "Listen man, you can have a free shot... just watch the teeth, mom paid for those when I was younger..."
Hurt: "Don't be silly, it's a contact sport! I knew what I was getting myself into-"
Me: "You say that now but in a month or two you're going to wish you punched me in the face!"
Hurt: "NAH! Now if you wait until my wife gets here SHE might punch you in the face!"

Then we laughed and he showed me the x-rays he was getting ready to take home... turns out he had the EXACT same type of break I did. Same leg, same bones, same multiple breaks in precisely the same place.

I'd spent the weekend racked with guilt. When I broke my leg it was just dumb luck... but here was a guy who I didn't really know, who under most circumstances I'd call a friend... and I did that shit to him. I asked around on the Gimp Crew (a roller derby forum for injured skaters) and a few other places if anyone who'd ever been hurt then hurt someone else in the same manner... I couldn't find anyone. I asked around to some of the most vicious blockers I know if they'd ever hurt anyone before, most didn't think about it if they had, most hadn't injured someone seriously. Part of that is because roller derby, as physical and violent as it can be, really doesn't have a huge "serious" injury rate. I tell people that basically you'll see one 'season-ending' injury per league, per season. That said, the likelihood that a given person has injured another (as some are just done messing around and falling) is pretty rare.

It was after thinking about this a LOOONG time that I seriously considered giving up playing roller derby. I was SO excited to return to playing and skating but I was SO upset about this particular thing... I knew EXACTLY how much it was going to suck for this guy. EXACTLY how shitty his next 3 months of his life would be, how he'd still have pain 6 months to a year later... I thought "OK, this is it, I'm done, I'll just ref now. I can skate, not hurt anyone, still be involved, etc." I had some long heart-to-hearts with teammates, friends, family and I'm very VERY lucky to have those people in my life. To tell me that it's OK, that it's OK to try again, it's OK to feel responsible even if you're not. Hurt had a bad fall, I know that now. I love him and the rest of my derby brothers/sisters with all my heart and would never wish injury upon them. With that said, accidents still happen all the time even when you're not doing derby (like my break).

If you're injured or have injured someone... welcome to the club!
Obviously as much as I've come to terms with it, it still weighs on me. I've had time now, played many other bouts... I've come to terms with the fact that people can get hurt and out of an astronomically small chance it could be me that lays the hit on them that does it. I'd just like to think that those of us who've been there, who've been hurt and laid up for months on end... well. We know how it feels so it's just harder for us to come to terms with.

In the end I hope none of you ever have to deal with an injury yourself or the next worst thing which is being the last person to hit someone else who then becomes injured. Stay safe out there!
Don't be afraid to go out and kick ass!

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