I want you to imagine that you are a professional lacrosse player in top physical condition. You are near the top of your game, young, with a loving family, a job that involves working in an industry of the sport you love. Life is good.
Now I want you to imagine literally watching it all starting to potentially leave you. I want you to imagine your body acting in a way that leaves you with no clue of what is happening. All that you are certain of is that your body is not right and you cannot move your muscles. You are paralyzed and have no idea what is happening.
Jim Moss plays for the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League, and works for STX lacrosse. The 32 year old, six foot, 215 pounder is a transition player on one of the league’s premier teams. He is also a proud Canadian and was a member of the 2007 team that won a World Championship in London, Ontario.
But just a few short weeks ago, Moss found himself in a position that he had never dreamed of. He was ultimately diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
But he would not give in. Instead he decided to start blogging about it (http://sidewaysisforward.blogspot.com/), which I would encourage you all to visit and share your best wishes. It was suggested to me to do a story on Jim and his challenge. Earlier today, I sent him a message asking, and he graciously accepted.
This is a true lacrosse player, and I wish you the speediest recovery Jim. For what it is worth. Mammoth fans should expect to see him soon. These few short questions and Jim’s responses have been a clear indication to me that he will be back. An incredible story of courage.
GM: How did this all come about? (i.e., were you feeling differently, showing symptoms)?
JM: I had been sick with the flu for 5 days and was starting to get better but was still suffering from the worst full body pain that I have had. I mean I have never given birth before and I think I am pretty tough when it comes to pain but this was bad. I actually nearly asked the doctor for a shot of pain medication at one point. So just when I thought I was getting better, my arms started to swell up and my hands started to hurt even more. I had been to the doctors a couple of times and we had no idea what was up, he just thought I had some kind of a Virus.
GM: Where exactly were you when you realized this wasn’t normal and needed medical attention?
JM: It was Saturday Am and I had sent my wife and son off with one of our friends to go to Pebble Beach for the day. I was really not feeling that hot and thought I’d save my energy so I could possibly join them for dinner. Around noon, I got up off the couch after a couple episodes of Law and Order SVU, and I stumbled a couple of steps. I caught myself from falling by grabbing the kitchen counter. So I tried to walk and I was thinking to myself “walk… just walk” and I fully remember saying out loud “Quit F’ing around and walk” but I couldn’t really walk, my legs wouldn’t do what they were told. I thought I was having a seizure except it was equal on both sides, the disability. I have to admit it took about 3 minutes to get the 10-12 feet to the bathroom and I sat down on the toilet and had a bit of a cry. (Man tears, some of the worst kind of man tears) It was combination of fear and frustration. I thought I would get up and will myself to walk, but it wasn’t that easy. It took about 5 minutes to get back to the couch. I was getting pretty scared at that point so I called my wife but got no answer. I called my Mom back home in Ontario, and she said “don’t be a dip shit, call 911″ So I did.
GM: When you were informed that it was Guillain Barre Syndrome what went through your mind?
JM: “What the hell is Guillain Barre Syndrome?” When they explained it to me I actually felt relieved at first. It was mix because it could last as long as two years or I could walk out of there in 7 days. Right from the start though I viewed myself as lucky because it could have been way worse. I grew up with a neighbour who had CP and a girlfriend’s father who died of MS so I am familiar with some of the worst kinds of disease out there and was lucky to not have any of them.
GM: Describe where you are at now in your road to recovery.
JM: Well as I respond to these questions I am on day 24 from when I called 911. I can walk now on my own without a cane, and today I actually jogged about 20 yards. They are sending me home in the next couple of days and I’ll be participating in this rehab program called Rehab without walls; 3-5 hours a day I’ll have a couple of therapists come to the house and work on getting me back to full swing. Also, just today, I had a road trip to Safeway where I got to learn how tiring buying groceries can be when you are down and out, but I loved it. And tomorrow they are going to let me cook a meal (Chile Verde and black beans and rice) to learn how tough standing in the kitchen long enough to cook, will be.
GM: In your blog, you appear to be using a little humour to get through this. Is this something you try to do, or is it just your way of dealing with it.
JM: I think have always used humour to get through the day. People love to laugh and it is healthy so I think I have used it to let people know that I am OK – you could cut my legs off entirely and I’d likely cut a joke about felling like I could use to lose some more weight or something morbid like that. I actually spent some time with one therapist who said that “I worry too much about making sure everyone else is OK and that right now I need to really focus on me and getting better.” I told her that “I needed to know that everyone was OK and knew I was OK so that I could relax and focus on getting better.” She said “exactly”. So I think that is where the humour comes from; letting people know I’m OK and lifting the mood to keep it positive and not get stuck dwelling on how much this might suck at times. People were worried about me and they would say this negative stuff and ask questions about negative things so I would lighten the mood with a joke to try and get back on the positive track. Negativity has no place in a recovery process. You have to convince every part of your body that you are just absolutely going to get better and that’s it.
GM: As with everyone, that goes through very trying times, there must be a few folks that you want to acknowledge for their support in helping you get to where you are.
JM: My wife (Jennifer) has been incredible. She is 33 weeks pregnant and we have a 2 year old son, Wyatt, and she has been a real rock star and totally selfless. This was supposed to be that time where I treat her like a total princess and put her on a pedestal but instead I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. My family has also been incredible. My mom, dad and sister flew down immediately as well as Jennifer’s Parents Doug and Sally. We were literally in the middle of moving from one house to another so there was a ton of work still to do and I was useless. After that I had a few friends who really stepped up, Steve Maroni and Darren O’Donnel who both work for the SJ Sharks have been really awesome and Gary Rosyski and Shaydon Santos and his wife Leah have been great as well. I have been very lucky to have the doctors and therapists I did as well. They have all been incredibly supportive and helpful. And the number of lacrosse fans and players that reached out even with just a couple of quick words of encouragement was really incredible.
GM: I read you are targeting to be ready for opening day of the NLL season. Is that still a goal?
JM: It might be a little lofty, but I do hope to at least be able to fly there and be there for it, after that, it is a long season and the goal would be to get back in time to be in full swing for playoffs. I missed last season after having a total reconstruction of my shoulder, and being out of the picture has cost me a spot at Team Canada tryouts. I feel like people had started to count me down and out before this even happened. I kind of feel like those attitudes must have been a reflection on me going in and so I am dedicated to changing that perception. I must have been doing something that misrepresented who I really am or who I want to be anyways. Whoever think s I’m over the hill or can’t get back is in for a surprise.
GM: What is it about this challenge you feel has either changed you or affected you the most?
JM: Perspective and a reminder of the value of not only life but of our faculties. I had them taken away temporarily. Oddly, I always knew I would be OK but was unsure how much function I would get back. I feel like I had a shot fired across my bow. I had a dream the night before this happened that I was sitting at a bar and had a chat with the Devil. I don’t remember what he said but I remember feeling like I understood that whatever it was it was serious and he had the power to do with me as he wanted. I guess he just wanted to warn me to feel lucky for all that I have, the people in my life, my abilities, everything, don’t waste it. Sounds cheesy but it really happened.
As I mentioned above, please visit Jim’s blog and pass along your wishes. This will go a long way in supporting him in getting back to where he needs to be.