Pisani's road to recovery

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Fernando Pisani is a private person who doesn't like talking about himself when things are going great, so you can imagine what it was like telling a bank of reporters and cameramen about something as personal and painful as his struggle with ulcerative colitis.

About losing 30 pounds and six pints of blood in a matter of weeks. About not being able to climb a flight of stairs without gasping for air. How 15 or 20 trips to the bathroom every day left him weak and dehydrated. About the frightening prospect of major invasive surgery.

About having to watch the Edmonton Oilers begin theirseason, and possibly end it, without him.

"It's personal, but it's one of those things where it happens to a lot of people," said the 30-year-old winger, speaking to the media yesterday for the first time since his medical condition forced him out of hockey.

SHELL OF HIMSELF

Pisani has been wrestling with colitis for a couple of years now, but his condition began deteriorating rapidly, and dangerously, this summer. He went from a 210-pound elite athlete in the prime of his life to a frail shell of himself who could barely summon enough energy to talk on the phone.

"Toward the start of July I started feeling sick and it went from a really bad situation to worse," he said. "I couldn't live a day-to-day life. Once August hit I got pretty nervous and scared and it just seemed to get worse from there. I knew that something serious was going on.

"I went from being completely healthy to where walking up the stairs was a task. I'd be out of breath.

"It just shows you how human you are. As a hockey player you think you're invincible and you put yourself in a Superman complex. This kind of shows you that it can happen to anybody, how important your health is."

Hockey is out of the question when you're wasting away and nothing seems to help, but regular visits from his teammates helped lift his spirits.

"Even though I didn't really want visitors it was great to see them, to kind of forget about what I was going through. Just talk to them and hang out and laugh. Trying to be a part of the team when I really wasn't."

Then, injections of Remicade seemed to turn the fight in Pisani's favour.

"It was looking pretty grim for a while there, up until a couple of weeks ago," he said. "I started to get some medication and feel better, things started to progress upwards instead of downwards. I was really happy for that. The next step would have been surgery. It's a major surgery and I wasn't looking forward to that."

He has gained about six pounds back and doctors have given him permission to go to the dressing room and start easing into a little exercise.

Hockey? Who knows. He'll cross that bridge when he comes to it, but for right now he'll cherish every small step on the road to recovery.


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