The legend of Dan
Dan was my best friend in high school and we've kept the connection all these years, through thick and thin--and believe me, there has been a shitload of both. Dan never raced bikes, but he passed along an object lesson once and told me to share it with my bike racing buddies when they needed to ask themselves the question ("the" question being, am I really hurt or am I just being a pussy?).
In high school, Dan was one of the studs of the football team. He was one of those 200-lb kids who knocked people on their ass on the line and then come spring he had the speed to run one of the legs of the 400 relay for the track team. I thought about that every time I got my ass kicked by some big-legged sprinter in a crit. Dan would have made one hell of a crit rider. And I'd probably have him talked into it by now, but a few years back he found out he had a congenital liver disease. The folks at the Mayo told him he indeed had inherited the disease that killed his mother and that he would need a liver transplant ASAP. But that wasn't the worse news they had for him.
They told him his liver condition had damaged his heart to the point that he would need a new one of those as well. My buddy wouldn't live too much longer without a double organ transplant. How's that for perspective?
By the time the Mayo found a donor, the disease had done some peripheral nerve damage. The grip in his hands seemed to manifest this the most and he had trouble with many mundane tasks. When he finally checked in for the transplant, he also had lost a lot of muscle mass. They did the heart first and had to sew him back up without the new liver because his new heart wouldn't kick off on its own while he was under what they menacingly referred to as a "drug-induced coma."
Recovering from open-heart surgery is a baby-step process. Energy is almost an abstract term and strength you pretty much get only in your dreams. Add to that the nerve damage that Dan still had and, well, suffice it to say . . . well I could go on and on about that, but I'll just give you the thing he told me to tell all my bike racer buddies to think about when they thought they had it bad.
In his weakened state and with the reduced grip in his hands due to the nerve damage, Dan said that when he took a shit, before he could wipe his ass he had to spit on his leg and rub his hand in the spit so that the paper would stick to his hand enough so that it wouldn't fall off when he reached back to wipe. So he told me to tell all you guys that when you're in a race or out on a ride and you think you have it bad, that I knew a guy who had to spit on his leg just so's he could wipe his ass. So there you have it.
About six months after his heart transplant, Dan got a new liver. All that was four years and one wife ago and Dan's doing okay. Since then he raised his nephew and put him through high school and has moved on with life. Another thing about Dan is that in addition to being a fine athlete, we voted him "wittiest" in high school and he has never lost that omnipresent sense of humor. Weight loss and appetite is a very real problem for people who've gone through procedures like this, and the last time I saw Dan he was ecstatic that he had resumed a life-long love affair with cheeseburgers. Later.