Saturday, 4 April 2009

Epic Fail of the Heart

So I know that a ton of my posts are about hockey. Whatever. I love it, and this is my blog, and no one is under any obligation to read it. That said, hockey is definitely not the only thing I think about.

Like today. Like Carly Bragnola. Who was 27. Sure, there's the fact that she was Taylor Pyatt's fiancee. There's the hockey connection right there. It's another Canucks-related tragedy. It's impossible to avoid in this city, even if, like me, you aren't a Canucks fan.

It's like trying to ignore Luc Bourdon's death in a motorcycle accident in May of 2008. Or even the death of Mickey Renaud, Captain of the Windsor Spitfires, who died on February 18th, 2008, of a heart attack. Mickey Renaud was 19. Like Alexei Cherepanov. Also 19. Also dead.

What the hell's with all these people dying? Four of them, in a remarkably small global sports community. Four. In the span of 16 months. I heard about Mickey Renaud on TSN while I was at the gym. The kid had a heart attack in his living room. At 19. I know what the medical reports said: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A genetic heart disorder no one knew he had. It's still mind boggling. His heart just stopped beating. His heart failed. Failed.

Then, on May 29th, 2008, Luc Bourdon died. I found out three hours after he was pronounced dead. I burst into tears then and there. I honestly have no control, even now, over my emotions when I see the May 30th presser with Kris Letang. He has this blank look in his eyes. He keeps rubbing his owns elbows, as if to remind his nerve endings that they're supposed to feel something. Anything. Please. Even if it's pain. So long as it's not nothing.

On October 13th Alexei Cherepanov died. Honestly, could more NHL prospects die in the span of eight months of completely unrelated reasons?

There was some controversy surrounding Cherepanov's death. The ambulance not being where it was supposed to have been. The defibrilator's battery being dead. Doping rumours. Chronic ischemia. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Myocarditis. Does it really matter what killed him? He was 19. No matter the cause, it's tragic. Even if an investigation later proved that he'd been engaged in doping. Doesn't change the fact that he's dead. Doesn't change the fact that the kid played a game for a living. That he was talented. That he was a good kid. That he didn't kill anyone. Or hurt anyone. Not intentionally. It's not his fault the news of his death made me cry.

Nikethamide (which Cherepanov is alleged to have taken approximately 3 hours before the game in which he died) is a stimulant which affects the respiratory system. Bear with me for a moment (and keep in mind that I don't have a degree in pharmacology, so this is purely speculative)... if you're out of shape and you do intense physical activity, what happens? Your heart speeds up, trying to pump oxygen into you blood stream, trying to keep you going because you need oxygen. But your heart can't keep up, and you get winded. Your lungs hurt.

Now imagine you're an 19 year-old hockey player who doesn't know he has myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle, which results in not enough blood getting to the heart). Your lungs keep hurting. You keep getting winded. You don't feel so good on the whole. You're getting tired too easily. You think there's something wrong with you. That maybe you can't cut it. Maybe you're not strong enough to make it in the big league. Or maybe you just need a little boost to help you get to where you need to be physically.

The problem is in your lungs (or so you imagine). You take stimulants that affect your respiratory system. Makes some sort of basic logical sense, right? Only the problem isn't in your lungs, it's your heart. And it can't keep up. And then one day, during a game, it fails. Epic fail. With unfortunate consequences.

They try. The medics try to convince your heart to start up again and for a few minutes they do, the same way another young heart was convinced to beat again after a lethal bolt of energy coursed through her. You don't know that girl. She'd be a few years older than you now, if they'd been able to convince her heart to keep beating. She was younger than you are now though, when she died. She was sixteen. Too young. Like you are. You are nineteen. You were just trying to live the dream. So was she. Different dream. Same kind of reckless, wonderful heart. Hearts that failed, through no real fault of their own. Those dreams pushed those hearts to the limit. It's a beautiful concept if you ignore the outcome: living so hard that your heart can't keep up. It's almost poetic. Leave it to the Russians and the kids with grit and the girls you can't help but fall for, to push their hearts to the point of no return.

Years later, when someone who knew that girl with the reckless, wonderful heart that failed reads about all these young men dying, she can't quite keep herself from tears. She cries because she cried over that girl, and these boys are enough like that girl to make it hurt like it did. Even if that was years ago now. Even though she's never met these young men.

And then a young women dies. A pretty young woman who loved a man like these reckless, big-hearted boys. That someone who knew the girl with the reckless, wonderful heart, she cries. Even though she's never met the young woman. Even though she knows virtually nothing about her. Part of them is the same. Some part. The part that loves, and mourns. It's almost as bad as trying to imagine dying herself.

It's why watching that May 30th presser with Kris Letang is still so heart-breaking.


Because it doesn't matter who they were when they were alive, because they were all too young to die. They had lives to live. They had people to love. They had people to inspire. In their own ways, they still manage to do the last one. Even if it's nothing more than as cautionary tales, stories that, rather telling us what not to do, tell us what not to waste.

Life's too short to waste it doing things you don't love. So don't. (Except for dishes and laundry and paying taxes, those are probably a good plan, regardless of their potential monotony.) Do what makes you spin with joy whenever and however possible. Be a little bit irresponsible. You may never have another chance to be. You never know when it'll be over forever.

Even if there is such a thing as heaven, it's not the same as this life; this short, sweet, fleeting life on Earth. So make the most of it. And be happy. And try to tell someone you love them today.




**To everyone who was referred to this post from "All Hawks Hockey", welcome to Life is Peachy. I hope you come back now and then, and when you do, don't be a stranger :) A big thank you to Clare, for considering this worthy of sharing with her readers.**

10 comments:

Jessclub7 said...

I lost 2 people to suicide within a month 2 years ago.

And to this day I cannot see any signs, any indication that they were going to do what they did.

Some things just make no sense.

Susan said...

I've heard it said many times, "live every day like it is your last", but it is hard to remember when you are trying to pay bills, wash clothes, wash dishes, etc. Maybe we should all try a bit harder to follow that advice. I will try. Because, you just never know what is around the corner.

ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ali said...

During my four years of high school, three young men were killed in car accidents... their lives continue to influence people today, years after their deaths...

Even though I never knew these young men or women, I have feeling that the way they lived their lives are still influencing people today, and they'll be influencing the lives of people for time to come, just like those young men that I knew...

It certainly doesn't make their deaths any easier, but at least it's something...

I'm right there with you on the Kris Letang presser -- I cry every time I watch it.

Val said...

That was an epic blog post - 'nuf said...

I love the Tim McGraw song, "live like you were dying" - that is what we should do every day...

KD said...

You can always managed to make me cry and I love you for it.

I'm not going to say anything else. You already know.

Clare said...

Since I am no where near Vancouver I am sending you a hug from Buffalo (gosh I am sending lots of hugs to Vancouver lately), the part that made me cry the most in this post had nothing to do with hockey.

mer said...

hey. there is so much I could say to all of you in response to your comments on this topic, but I honestly can't do it today. Just know that I've read them, and they've all resonated with me, and, where appropriate I get it/feel you/completely agree/am sending hugs your way too. In some cases many of these things to each of you.

CarlieCurlyQ said...

I have that Kris Letang presser in my YouTube favorites. (Not in a morbid way.) I noticed that about his elbows. It's almost like he is comforting himself by rubbing his own arms. The poor boy just sits there while cold heartless reporters pound him with question after question. He just sits there about to break down and cry any second. His voice was all shaky and quiet too. Stupid reporters! All they care about is to get their stupid story!

mer said...

@ carlie - Letang did *agree* to do the presser and I have a lot of respect for him doing that. I feel like he did it because he wanted people to know how much Luc meant to him. Notice how he had all these prepared-ish answers until someone asks him what his favourite memory of Luc is? He just starts babbling about all the stuff they did and how Luc was his best friend, and, and, and... it took no prompting. He wanted to talk about it. At least a little. To tell the world how wonderful his friend was. It breaks my heart a little.