I have not totally eliminated my original blog site, because what I wrote over a few years here came really from the heart.
Of late, this blog has been getting swamped by people who want to post all sorts of advertising. I am not adverse to genuine commentary on my blog, but 99% of what I have to sift through is advertising SPAM, plain and simple. So for you folks trying to advertise, I have a message for you:
It’s been a good run for my blog on this web site and this blog engine. But I think there are serious limitations in what I want to do with my blog. Moving forward, here will be my new blog address:
While working out at the gym at the VA Medical center, there was somebody who was busy texting away, then she looked at the TV’s that were playing in the workout area, she looked at the subtitles and asked me if I knew how to turn the sound on…she said she hated reading subtitles-then went back to texting while she was on the treadmill.
I had my appointment with a cardiologist yesterday. We have a date for my redux cardiac ablation: May 24th.
It seems odd to schedule a procedure when I am overall feeling well, but I hate being on medication to control my Atrial Fibrillation/Atrial Flutter. The side effects of my current medicines are not as bad as those from December and January, but the one medicine, Multaq, costs about a hundred dollars a month. When you prorate that over the course of months or years, that means a lot of money out of pocket for me. I would rather just give ablation a shot to see if that will control that arrythmia which puts me at higher risks for complications like stroke.
I know this procedure is not risk-free, but I have a lot of confidence in my doctor.
I have been lucky that family and my nurse managers have been really supportive about me in all of this.
The good news is that the speculation is gone. I have date that will hopefully knock out this atrial fibrillation. The last one I had gave me 5 and a half really good years, so we will just have to wait and see.
Saint Cloud, Minnesota is a city about an hour’s drive along Interstate Highway 94 from Minneapolis. It’s a town of about 60,000 souls on the banks of the Mississippi river with the nickname of “The Granite City”. This is a town that is usually a a passing through point for residents of the Twin Cities who are on their way to the lakes, woods, cabins and resorts of North Central and Northern Minnesota. Unless you are going to school at St. Cloud State, or are being sent to the nearby prison, it’s usually not a goal destination kind of a city…unless I am playing rugby.
As luck would have it, St. Cloud is also the place where I played my first game of rugby in 2006, and my most recent game this past weekend.
Back in 2006, my stomach was in a knot as I drove up to St. Cloud with Denny Rowlands and the Hromdka brothers. I did not know what to expect. The Metropolis coach at the time was a Kiwi named Jason who sent me into a tight game with about 20 minutes to go. I was not on the field for a minute when there was a loose ball lying on the ground, and my American football background got the best of me and I dived onto the ball and covered it with my body like when does when there is a fumble. The referee blew his whistle, put his arm in the air and informed me that I had played the ball on the ground, and that was a no-no.
The Saint Cloud Bottom-Feeders (named after the carp that are in the Misssippi River) always seem to play Metropolis hard, I was to find out. It was a tight game that was played on a frozen pitch(it was late March here in Minnesota) with a small, frozen pool of ice near the one try line out to the five meter line towards the right, where the field had a pronounced valley. The game ended in a tie, but the game was notable for the other fact that it is still the game where I have come the closest to scoring a try. I was able to carry a few tacklers down to the one meter line when I went down, but at least was able to keep the ball recycled until one of our other players scored a try. I have never come even remotely close to being that close to the try line ever since.
The other notable thing about that first rugby game in St. Cloud was the post game at the sponsoring bar for the Bottom Feeders. Usually the sides will pick the best player of the day from the opposing side, and they will chug a beer against the their opposite number. The man who the feeders chose for Metropolis’s best player did not, and still does not drink alcohol. It was then realized as this was my first-ever game, I should be the one to chug the beer. You need to remember that I was 45 years old at the time, and had not tried to power-drink any form of alcohol in over 20 years. Peer pressure is a powerful thing, and I went out and slammed that beer and glass of whiskey before my opponent from St. Cloud could finish his beer and Jack Daniels. I thought I was going to die…my hiatal hernia (isn’t middle age fun?) burned and churned like Vesuvius, but I survived.
I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2010. I have had some health issues in the past year that have seriously hampered my ability to play rugby. I had a pulmonary embolism almost a year ago, which meant that I have been a blood-thinner called Coumadin. Back in December, my heart started acting up again and my Atrial Fibrillation was back to the point where I was getting into a different arrythmia called Atrial Flutter, where you can be sitting still and your heart is still racing in the 120-150 beats per minute range. I am finally on a better combination of medicines that are controlling it. I’ve been lifting weights and riding my bike to and from work (with some help from the bus and light rail) that has helped me shed some of my winter blubber. Although not in rugby shape to go a full 80 minute game, I was really dying to get a run in this past weekend up in St. Cloud, where the Bottom Feeders hosted the All Saints Tournament.
I contact Mark Dalton, the coach of the Metropolis DIII side otherwise known as “The Killer B’s”. I knew that with the DI side playing in South Dakota on Saturday, and the team having had to do some recent out of state tournaments, he might use a spare old boy prop to round out his numbers. Even playing 40 minute games, the props that were playing were getting pretty winded and beat up as the first two games, against the Manitoba Wombats and St. Cloud took a tolll on the front rows.
In the third game against Sioux falls, I was able to go out and play tight head prop.
I am sure that if my doctor knew that I was out there playing rugby, he would have had a shit-fit…but with the recent passing of Matt Comstock, I felt like I was going to get a run in a game no matter what. God, did it feel good to play. It was great seeing the guys and chatting with them on a gloriously sunny Saturday, but I won’t lie: It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to not just hold my own, but also to blow my opposite number off the ball in the scrums. The front row of Max, Squirrel and I were just owning the scrums. As somebody who has never scored a try, being able to do that was just as good of a feeling for me.
My plan with my cardiologist is to go get a cardiac ablation done next month. It’s hard to say if I will ever be able to set foot on a rugby pitch again as a player, but if this past Saturday was my last game ever as a player, I am glad that it was in St. Cloud, as it gives kind a poetic symmetry to my time playing the beautiful game.
It has been a very tumultuous last couple of weeks for the members of the Metropolis Rugby community here in Minnesota.
The good news was last week, our club sent down two full sides to the Saint Louis Ruggerfest, and the DI side one the top-flight division and the DIII side won the collegiate division. It continues what has been some great results for the club.
The bad news was that one of our Old Boys, Travis Karlin, needed a Kidney transplant. He got the new kidney last week at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and he is doing just great. I had seen him last month, and in looking at him, I never would have guessed that his health was in such rough shape that he would need a kidney transplant.
The ugly news was learning of the passing of Matt Comstock this past Monday, at the age of 47. He was a Metropolis Old Boy, who back in the day, was a really good fullback. I have had a chance to meet Matt at some different Metropolis Functions, and like many members of this club, I found him to be a really nice guy. Apparently he took his son to a Minnesota Wild Hockey game on Sunday, complained about not feeling good, went to bed….and he never woke up. It really does hit you when somebody in your own peer group dies. He leaves behind a wife and a son.
They are having the visitation this afternoon, and a service/gathering at the Metropolis home pitch at Columbia Park in North East Minneapolis tomorrow afternoon.
It certainly has left me in a reflective mood on this Friday.
There is a lot to digest from this past weekend’s Heineken Cup Quarterfinals(I was also 4 for 4 in my predictions, THAT does not happen often): Munster found another a gear to overcome a halftime deficit against Northampton to win their match 33-19, Jamie Heaslip’s heroics at 8 man were enough to overcome Julien Malzieu’s great game(3 tries) for Clermont Auvergne 29-28, Toulouse made total road-kill out of Stade Français in Languedoc, 42-16. In a match played in the Spanish part of Basque territory in San Sebestian(Bigger stadium where Real Sociedad plays soccer/football), Biarritz was able to JUST hold on and beat Ospreys 29-28, in a pulsating match that was played at such a wicked pace, under a brilliant Basque sun on a fast track, you had to think that you were watching a Super 14 match.
It’s not everyday where the rugby blogosphere is buzzing about the play of an American player, but after the weekend’s matches, the talk has still been about the 80 meter try scored by Biarritz’s wing, USA Eagle Takudzwa Ngwenya. If you have not seen it, it is on You Tube. The try actually came out of an Osprey’s offensive scrum deep in Biarritz territory. The Basque pack totally blew away the Welsh pack, Damien Traille (who also had 3 drop goals in a great game for Biarritz) got a quick outlet pass to the Zimbabwean-born speedster, and Ngwenya did the rest, blowing by Phillips and shoving aside Shane Williams like a small kid on his way to planting the ball down for a try that had speed, strength and agility as he tiptoed down the touchline at warp speed.
Ngwenya’s time in the Top 14 playing for Biarritz has clearly helped him with his game. He was a very raw talent when Biarritz signed him after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, where he is best remembered as scoring the try of the tournament when he took advantage of a Todd Clever interception and Mike Hercus long pass to score a try against the Springboks that had the fans in Montpellier on their feet, and left Bryan Habana in his wake. He may have been a novelty when he was signed by Biarritz, but he has earned a regular spot as wing on the Basque side’s starting 15 He still can tackle better (but how many wings really are great tacklers?), but Ngwenya played a key role in the the second try for Biarritz when he took an innocent looking pass off a scrum from Yachvili (who also had a solid game) ran down the right wing, then adroitly chipped the ball ahead for Ian Balshaw to touchdown for the try. It’s a play that shows Ngwenya’s develpement that he is not just a converted track star with blinding speed, he is really coming along, which for the USA Eagles with a year and half to go before next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, is really good news.
If you are a rugby coach in Zimbabwe, I cannot even begin to imagine how frustrating it has to be seeing top flight rugby talent like Ngwenya and Tendai Mtawairira (Better known as “The Beast”, a loose-head prop playing for The Sharks and the Springboks) leaving a country that has been turned into a shambles by Robert Mugabe. You would have to think that with that kind of talent, Zimbabwe would be able to qualify for a Rugby World Cup, something it has not done since 1995.
If Ngwenya can continue to flourish with Biarritz and the National team, and if plays like that 80 meter try can get on ESPN here in the USA, it will only serve to help garner more attention for the sport of rugby, and hopefully get more young players involved here in the US.
For the USA Eagles to compete at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, they are going to need somebody who can get Ngwenya the service of ball like his Biarritz team mates gave him-Traille and Yachvili gave him quick ball and great service to put him in the position to shine. Like the saying goes, you cannot coach speed, either you have it or you don’t, but Ngwenya’s rugby game is coming along nicely in one of my favorite cities in France.
Between my work schedule and competing with my family members for access to the family computer, I have not even had a chance to look at my crystal ball for the Heineken Cup Quarterfinals.
The opening match, which should be starting any minute, is Leinster hosting Clermont Auvergne. The Michelen Men are having a decent season in the French Top 14, but it’s tough to imagine the men in gold winning against O’Driscoll and company on the Emerald Isle. Look for Leinster to advance.
Northampton is the last English club standing. They are having a good year in the Guiness Premiership, but Munster just seems to find another gear in the Heineken Cup. Northampton has played Munster tight in group play, but I just cannot see the Saints pulling off the upset on Irish soil.
The Ospreys carry Welsh hopes down to the Basque country, where they will take on Harinordoquy, Yachvili and their Biarritz mates. Of the French clubs, they had the easiest time in qualifying for the quarterfinals. Ospreys have been very disappointing in the Magner’s League, and they just don’t travel well. Biarritz should be sending the Welsh back home and out of the competition.
For me, a fan of the French game, the last match pitting Stade Français on a road trip to Languedoc to take on Toulouse is a very intriguing match up. It’s like two sexy French models, one blonde, one brunette having a cat fight. You may not have a favorite, but you just have to look. You have the whole Paris VS “Le Midi”thing. The two clubs are among the most decorated in French rugby. Stade has had more than a little bit of controversy in qualifying in having not one, but two players given long bans for eye-gouging at a preliminary round match in Ulster. The Stade’s flamboyant President, Max Guazzzini tried to make the whole affair into a “the world hates us because we are French” whining binge. (For the record, Taissez vous, Max) Toulouse has not had a very good year at all in the Top 14. They are still in the fight for a playoff berth, but the thing about Guy Noves is that Toulouse always seems to find another gear and raise the level of their play when it’s the Heineken Cup. Look for Toulouse to smoke “Les Parisiens”.
I had a brutal day at work on my hospital job, yesterday. One of my patient’s under my care is just a train wreck: Tracheotmy, vented, multiple tubes, IV’s and Gastrostomy feedings…he really is more of a patient for an intensive care unit than a spinal cord rehab floor. I was running hard taking care of him and my other patients, who, thank God, did not have nearly as much stuff going on with them.
I was sitting on the #14 bus going towards home, thinking about how tired I was. The 14 bus in the Twin Cities bus system goes from Minneapolis towards the suburb of Robbinsdale-a 10 minute bike ride for me to my house in New Hope. This bus goes along a stretch of West Broadway, right through the heart of “The Hood”-a place you really don’t want to be at 1:30 in the morning.
As the mostly empty bus rolled down West Broadway (Maybe 5 people in the bus), an elderly black lady supporting a white guy in his 50′s flagged the bus down. She helped the man stagger onto the bus. He had just been assaulted, punched, pepper-sprayed, and had 400 dollars stolen from him. My fatigue from my shitty shift vanished as I assessed the stricken man. No obvious cuts, just some slight swelling in his jaw, but his assailants had scored a direct hit on his right eye with the pepper spray. Luckily, one of the passengers had a half a bottle of water on him which he gave me to try to lavage the man’s eye. I emptied the contents of the bottle into his eye and used a moistened spare shirt I had to cover the eye.
As luck would have it, the 14 bus goes right past North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, which has level one trauma center. That means if you have traumatic injury that can affect life, limb or eyesight, this is the best place you can go to get treatment. I had the bus driver drop me, the man, his gear and my bike (the buses have a front rack for bike riders). The guy still was pretty much blinded, so I helped him get into the Emergency room, where the triage nurse took over his care.
As I peddled home in the darkness of about 1:40 in the morning, it struck me that at times my profession can be the worst of times-having a bad shift in the hospital can be stressful as hell…but it can also be the best of times. I’m sorry I could not do more for this guy, but his profuse thanks as I left him in the ER helped me get over a tough day…and also served as a reality check that the term “tough day” can have a lot of meanings.
Wherever he is, I hope he is OK…and I hope the bastards who would assault a lone older man at night will get theirs in the end…