Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Nil By Brain.

I have never been interested in sport.

Never wanted to score a goal. Never wanted to come first in a race. Never wanted to win the World Cup. But... I have always wanted to have a sports injury.

Sports injuries are cool. How did you hurt yourself? “By pushing myself to the very limits”. Cool. When I was a child, I’d give my self-penned letter from my mum to my PE teacher to excuse me from wanker class and then just sit there and watch the wankers run around being wankers with a ball. If they tediously controlled the ball, it was “good play”. If someone scored a goal, they were a “good team player”. But if they fell over and cut themselves, somehow they were a hero. The attention they got was amazing. The whole team coming together to help the clumsy, bleeding idiot off the pitch was an incredible sight. I used to look at those limping, bleeding heroes getting their backs patted and their hair ruffled and think: one day, that’ll be me. 

I’d close my eyes and lie back on the grass and imagine me on the pitch during the World Cup final. I’m playing for Northern Ireland alongside Pat Jennings, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish  and Ray Reardon. We’re facing the might of Brazil. The score is 3 all. Only minutes left of the game. Dalglish has the ball and sprints easily past the Brazilian centre forward. He passes to Keegan who skilfully weaves past player after player. He sees Reardon to his right and me near the goal. This is his chance. He kicks the ball high and direct to Reardon who heads it with precision directly to me. The goal is open. This is my chance. Northern Ireland will win the World Cup!!

Then Brazil’s cheating bastard Johan Cruyff comes out of nowhere and hacks my shin like a prick. I’m in agony. The Brazilian goal keeper takes the ball and kicks it to Pele. Jennings has left the Northern Ireland goal to tend to his team mate and call him a hero. I’m surrounded by my teammates all patting my back and ruffling my hair as Franz Beckenbauer puts the ball into the Northern Irish net. Brazil has won the World Cup to the boos of all nations including Brazil, who changes the name of its country to Leggetown.

I arrive home to a hero’s welcome. George Best apologises for thinking the World Cup was next week. Ian Paisley shakes my hand and says “Honestly, I’ve been such a dick. Well, I’m changing my ways, buddy!”. And Dana sucks on her finger and slowly slides it into my bumhole. 

But that’s just a teenage football dream. It never happened. And, outside of injuries, I remain completely uninterested in sport or any physical activity. Until recently.

I have arthritis. It hurts a lot. After medication made me both very sleepy and unable to drink alcohol (therefore denying me the ability to be me), I decided to take the doctor’s original advice: start exercising. I have never exercised in my life until this year. I quit the arthritis medicine and I took up... aqua jogging.

Aqua jogging is easily the simplest and least demanding exercise you can do. You put on a floatation belt, get into the pool and you jog up and down. That’s it. Your feet don’t even touch the bottom of the pool. There is absolutely no impact with aqua jogging. You just trick your body into thinking that it’s doing a lot more than it actually is. Plus, when I aqua jogged in a proper aqua jogging class, it wasn’t a bunch of really old people doing it. No. It was 20 year old runners who’d had injuries and this was a great way to keep their bodies in shape for running when they got better. And when those young athletes looked at me, their faces seemed to say “good for him. I hope I’m still running marathons at his age”. Yes! My first sports injury! But... it’s a fictional one, just like the World Cup Final. It felt good though. As did the actual aqua jogging.

Get this: it worked. I was off meds and I could get around and do whatever I wanted pain free. All I had to do was exercise! Turns out, there really is something in all fitness talk. After a while, I had another appointment with my doctor. He was delighted with my news. Aqua jogging three times a week was saving the day. He was very happy for me. And then he suggested it was time to push it a bit further.


He enrolled me in a six week gym class where I had to go and exercise with a class on proper gym equipment twice a week.

Fuck’s sake. This was everything I didn’t want. Real exercise. Not the gentle splashing of aqua jogging. No longer would I be able to lie to my body by doing gentle, gentle “exercise”. I’d be telling my body the hard truth. With real exercise. Weights, machines, fucking warm-ups... WITH OTHER PEOPLE. This is not me.

How wrong I was. My gym class consisted of me and four others. I was the only person in my class who wasn’t an elderly, Christian Jamaican woman. And I instantly loved them. 

We did exercises like standing on one leg, walking in a straight line and lying down. And after every exercise, the gym instructor would clap and say “Well done, guys!” and my four gym buddies would all turn to me and individually say “God bless you”.

Isn’t that amazing? Seriously. They believe in an almighty creator of all things AND they want Him to bless me. I have NO equivalent to that. I tried saying “I hope David Bowie likes you”, but it’s not the same, is it? And every time they “God bless” me, I loved them more.

Those six weeks flew by. And every week, the gym instructor made it a bit harder for me (but not any of the rest of them). Instead of walking in a line, go on a cycling machine. Instead of standing on one leg, lift weights. Instead of lying down, RUN! And, I can’t lie... I started to really like it.

Since then, I’ve been going to the gym. Gently, but regularly. Cycling, rowing, lifting, running. And, it’s not me, but I like it. And if you really stick at something like that, you’ll achieve your goal. I know because I achieved mine.

Last Saturday, I woke up and my left calf hurt. Nothing bad but it definitely hurt. I stretched it to try to get rid of the pain, something I wouldn’t have known to do before my Christian Women’s Gym Class. But stretching didn’t work.

It got worse over the next few days and I just kept stretching to try to get rid of the pain. Then, on Thursday, I actually looked at my leg. It was swollen. Then I did another thing that isn’t me. I went to A&E.

I normally ignore lumps or bumps but pain is something I’m not keen on. I was checked out and diagnosed with DVT. That’s right, I barely moved all my life and now that I’m going to the gym regularly, I’ve got Deep Vein Thrombosis. That makes sense.

Except, they were wrong. The next day, my leg had swollen further and it was hard for me to walk. They took me in for blood tests, an examination and a scan. Turns out, a thing called a Baker’s Cyst ruptured behind my knee. The cyst is there to provide fluid for my knee so I can walk. But when it burst, the fluid poured into my leg. My leg detected a foreign object and immediately attacked it without ever considering that the Baker’s Cyst fluid is good for me and the leg ended up doing far more damage to itself than it ever could. Yes, my leg is a metaphor. 

My leg then became massive. HUGE. 

The doctor asked what physical activities I get up to and I told him about the gym. Several visits to hospital later and I’m still in horrible pain and I’m getting around (the house) on a crutch. Yesterday, the doctor said “I don’t know what you did in the gym on that Friday but please be careful you don’t do it again”.

I cannot lie. I left the hospital so proud of myself. I’d done it. I’d achieved my dream. I hadn’t let my teenage self down. It took a long time but I worked hard, I focused and I won: I had a sports injury.

Then I had another thought. 

I wasn’t at the gym that Friday. I was at aqua jogging class. 

And that’s the story of how I broke a sporting record: The world’s first person to get a sports injury from aqua jogging.

Pathetic? Yes. But still... someone tell Dana.

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