In 1988, a small boy bit his tongue and started bleeding while traveling the country with his family. Five days passed and the boy still bled, and his parents grew concerned. When his parents took him to the hospital, the doctors found nothing wrong and released him. Months later, when the boy’s knee doubled in size after a fall, he was diagnosed with severe Hemophilia, a rare genetic bleeding disorder.
As you may suspect, I was the little boy. Hemophilia affects my blood’s ability to clot without medical intervention. My main concerns center around internal and external bleeding.
Injuries and Complications
Unfortunately for my parents, I was a wild and active child. I enjoyed playing football, baseball, basketball, and roughhousing with my friends. Because I was so active, I experienced a frequent amount of internal bleeds (a pooling of blood in joints and muscles).
Both of my ankles, and my right knee, became target joints that experienced frequent internal bleeds. By the time I was 12, I had arthritis in both ankles and my right knee. To date, my Hemophilia has resulted in:
- A total right knee replacement in March, 2006
- A left ankle fusion in December, 2014
- End-stage arthritis in my right ankle (requires future fusion)
- Diffusive arthritis in my left foot bones (from ankle)
- Arthritis in my right big toe (who cares about this one though, right?)
- And hundreds of muscle bleeds
Have you or someone you know ever been forced to quit something? The frustration that results can put you in a bad place. I was forced to quit organized sports when I was 12, leaving a competitive fire burning inside me without release for 17 years. All of those years I felt like a part of me was missing, until I became a Rochester Mustang.
Rochester Mustangs Sled Hockey
My endless desire for sport and competition led me to the Rochester Mustangs sled hockey program. Sled hockey provides a chance for those with a physical disability to enjoy the sport of hockey. I didn’t know it at the time I joined, but becoming a Mustang restored a part of me that had been missing since I was 12, I was part of a competitive team again.
Becoming a Rochester Mustang has given me:
- Control over my disability
- A proper outlet for my competitiveness
- New goals and aspirations
- A sense of belonging, free of disability stigma
- New friends
- An overall more positive life
The best part about being a Mustang is that when the team is on the ice, everyone’s disability disappears. Whether you have a chronic illness, are an amputee, or have a spinal cord injury, everyone is on the same level. When the Mustangs skate, it is about working together to become a better team.
What You Can Do To Help
You may be, or know of, someone suffering from a disability, without a proper outlet for a sport. The Rochester Mustangs are looking to grow the sled hockey program.
You could help in a number of ways:
- Become a volunteer
- Help share our story on social media
- Spread the word to people who might want to try playing
- Donate to help with ice/equipment costs
Share your story with us. Have you experienced injuries that forced you to give up something? Do you know of someone who would benefit from joining our team? Or do you have any questions about what sled hockey is or what the requirements are? Leave your comments and thoughts below or message us privately for more information.
About the author
Justin McClanahan is a Public Relations major at Winona State University. Justin is a player and board member for the Rochester Mustangs.