As I was being lifted up from the table to be shipped into the massive tunnel with a General Electric logo on the top, I had to suppress a giggle fit. The jerking and the noises the table made were weird and perhaps the oddity was only amplified by the technician adjusting me into an awkward position so my elbow could be imaged. And then the ear plugs. And that awkward gown with three holes, all of them for your arms (I had to ask how to put it on after I spent a few minutes trying to figure out if the third hole was for putting my head through or not). Those were funny too. My torso was in a fetal position while my legs were facing straight ahead with the knees bent. I glided into the cramped tube, wondering how anybody with greater girth could ever go in there. I was in.
The technician talked to me through the intercom and the imaging began. I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie. The noises that the entire contraption made were unlike anything I’ve heard before. I was still suppressing giggles for the first five minutes. Then my body realized how unnatural it was to be stuffed into a giant machine in a half-fetal position with deafening noises of ungodly frequencies flying about and I felt fear for a minute. It was easy to calm down… I just trusted the process. I made a game of treating all of the different frequencies, treating them like a music track, finding the different layers. I focused on the layers that I liked the best and yes, oddly enough, there were frequencies in the MRI that I actually liked listening to.
I started to fall asleep and occasionally when the technician asked how I was doing through the intercom, I replied that I was fine. I started twitching as I tried to keep my body in a restful state without falling completely asleep. Eventually, it was done and I undressed and bounced out, eagerly awaiting the results.
When they came, it wasn’t a game any more. This all happened yesterday.
The collateral ligament in my elbow is torn by about fifteen percent… not the worst, but the injury won’t recover by before the end of the season. And it’s the kind of injury that if I try to push, it will have future consequences. Just so you know what the collateral ligament does, think of your knees for a second. Now think of your knees being knock-kneed. There are ligaments in your elbow that support the joint that prevent “knock-elbows,” like how there are ligaments in your knees that prevent knock-knees. If I tear this ligament further, it will mean less support for my elbow and a harder future as an old person (my orthopedist, bless his heart, said something among the lines of, “It won’t be your friend anymore”).
This, however, is my last wrestling season. Senior year. This is it. This injury, as serious as it is… well… I never believed in an injured vessel keeping a willful soul down. This isn’t a game to me. It never was, but it definitely isn’t now. I have three weeks, and throughout these weeks, the main question will be: what is the price that I’m going to pay? Ever since sixth grade, I’ve always looked up to the walls of our mat room that have our past league champs, to be inspired by the legacy that our team has forged. I wanted to be a part of that. But I was barred away.
Freshman year, I was beaten for the varsity spot for a senior who once abandoned the team during a meet (he was never punished for such treason; the head coach at the time let him walk on the mat like nothing happened afterwards). Sophomore year, I had achilles tendinitis and was beaten by a freshman and once again beaten by a wrestler who didn’t work as hard as I did after I stepped onto the mat, rusty from having to work around my injury for a large portion of the season. I still remember that I could barely walk after the day I wrestled two challenge matches in a row to try and crack the line-up and my achilles tendinitis was aggravated even more. During a big tournament that same year, I unknowingly broke my left middle finger, and it later got infected the same morning that I was supposed to be with the team for NCS duals. I missed our historic win that day. Junior year, a rash of infections affected me and a handful of other wrestlers. After a month of staying off the mat, my first tournament was the league championships. I took third, after my humiliating defeat in my first match… I was out of shape and my potential couldn’t be realized at that time.
And senior year. Here it is. I still remember the one article that was written by the high school newspaper. I remember how the names of “key wrestlers” included mine. And I remember how I didn’t turn out to be so “key” after all. Of all the humiliations I’ve gone through, that one is the worst one to me. The fury that I get from thinking about that article is why I’m still here. It’s part of the reason that I have the will that I have right now. It is why this is not a game anymore.