Pushing My Limits for Parapan Am Wheelchair Rugby

         David Wilsie, member of Team Canada wheelchair rugby team

I’ve loved this sport since I first saw the movie Murderball — there’s something about the abandon and apparent recklessness with which it’s played that’s just… well, a lot of fun. When I saw that the wheelchair rugby was part of the Toronto Parapan Am Games for the first time, I had to see it. (click photos to embiggen)

But there were two obstacles. One, the wheelchair rugby venue was in Mississauga, a good 30 km from where I live. Although my range has increased in terms of how far I’m able to take a long walk/wheel, that’s still twice as far as my pain levels have allowed me to go in a vehicle for over a decade. The second was that I’d have to miss my mandatory rest period that helps manage my fatigue and pain levels. This is something that hasn’t happened in over a decade. The idea felt more than a little risky.

I got tickets anyway. There was always the possibility of backing out. Still, we assumed not to the point that The Boy took the day off and we were getting increasingly excited to go.

And then my back crapped out on Sunday. I still don’t know what I did, but it was definitely the kind of injury that would prevent rattling around in a car and missing the mandatory nap period. It’s really amazing how my body has a unique sense of timing, scheduling injuries to mess as much as possible with any special plans. Given the level of wreckitude, I was pretty sure I’d be missing the games, but decided not to make any decision until Thursday morning.

And somehow, my back healed almost back to normal in three days. And it was one of those moments when it was yet again brought home to me just how much my life is still changing. In the past — even a few years ago — that kind of injury would have required weeks to heal. I’m sure the steroid shot that I have on board helped the process along, but the foundation for that is Humira allowing me to continue to build strength, even a decade after I first started Biologics.

So we went. In one of the more uncomfortable vehicles the company had and naturally, I was situated above the wheel well. It didn’t matter. I was going to murderball wheelchair rugby!

There were three games: the battle for fifth and sixth place between Argentina and Chile (the Toronto Parapan Am Games was Chile’s first competition outside South America), and the two semifinals: Canada versus Brazil and United States versus Colombia.

And it was an amazing! Seeing wheelchair rugby on the TV is already fascinating and captivating, but in person? Absolutely incredible. The high energy, the intensity of the wheelchairs being used as battering rams (without hurting anyone), the speed — I love everything about this game. I mentioned that I had found “my sport” to The Boy, who told me his heart couldn’t take it if I decided to play. Although I thought he was being a bit of a spoilsport, I reassured him that I’d meant having found the sport I’d like to watch. Possibly follow obsessively…

What was also pretty nifty about our trip to the Hershey Centre was having to use the washroom. Yes, I’m going to talk about that, but not in the way you’d expect. We needed a family washroom, in order to save other females the fright of seeing The Boy entering the women’s washroom in order to assist me. And this turned out to be a bit of a challenge. First, the wonderful volunteers had some trouble locating it. Well, everyone thought it was downstairs, but weren’t sure where exactly in the bowels of the Hershey Centre this was located or whether it was okay for me to go there.

All of a sudden, I spotted a couple of young men pushing a trolley with washroom cleaning/restocking supplies. I pushed my chair into warp speed and waylaid the team, one of whom agreed to take me to the mythical family washroom. It was a long trip and we had to stop in front of a closed door. Behind the door were the Canadian and Brazilian teams getting ready to go out on the court to warm up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t persuade my escort to introduce me to them, but I did hear the manly bellows of them revving themselves up before going on to the court. And then I got this shot as we went back to our seats. I would’ve loved to be courtside, but alas, accessible seating was much higher.

The computer had given us fantastic seats mid-court, but that area had a fence. Meaning I could see nothing because the fence was in the way. Being proactive, we asked the ushers if we could switch to the accessible area in one corner, which did not have a fancy fence. I had to make sure not to inadvertently rest my feet on the shoulders of the people in front of me, but other than that, I could see everything.

We saw the first game and most of the second, missing the third and going home well before the end of the night. Sense had prevailed when booking the ride and although I was pushing my limits, I had chosen to do so without complete abandonment and recklessness.

So, how much did it cost me? Not in the financial sense (somewhat expensive, totally worth it), but physically. The fatigue hit at 4:30 PM and in waves after that, but a caffeinated and carbonated beverage helped push it back. I’m still more tired than normal and expect that this will last for a few more days. In terms of the pain, it’s not as bad as I’d expected. Thanks to an ultrasound from The Boy before he left, and being diligent about taking pain meds on a schedule, I’m doing remarkably well. For this, too, I am grateful to Humira for allowing me to continue to build strength.

This is not the kind of adventure that will be repeated often, but it’s damn good to know that it’s now possible without weeks of recovery.

And y’know? Even if it takes weeks to recuperate, it will have been totally worth it.


Anonymous said…
So glad you got to go! I saw Murderball years ago and loved it.

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