Feature Editorial: Why I Extra Life

This week AcaGameia will be publishing articles every day while urging everyone to donate to their Extra Life Charity team. We will also be streaming our 24 hour marathon gaming session starting this Saturday, October 25th at 5:00 PM EST. The Streaming Site can be found at http://www.twitch.tv/aozain. 100% of ALL donations (no matter which team member you sponsor) go to support Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, Michigan.
Click HERE to donate to Seth! 
Click HERE to donate to David!
Click HERE to donate to Tim!

Whenever I write a little mockup asking people to give to AcaGameia’s Extra Life charity, I always look for a way to fit this story into it. For me, it’s important to tell people why this is important to me- that it’s not the usual charity-for-charity’s-sake. It’s just that this is a long story, and so I am going to apologize ahead of time for asking you to read it.

In my seventh grade year, between rotations of Smash Mouth and the Goo Goo Dolls, I got it into my head that I wanted to be in cross country. At that point of my life I was a bit more physically active, you see, and running for two miles seemed like a lot more fun than the three years I spent being pinned by wrestlers with decidedly more skill. Plus, in wrestling there was the notoriously competitive portion called the “weigh in”, where -like wages in a rapidly deregulating economy- it was a race to be at the bottom. This could lead to some interesting choices by the wrestlers themselves (namely that some would weigh in completely bereft of clothing), which absolutely horrified my youthful and somewhat prudish sensibilities.

So running. That was for me.

I actually am somewhat proud to say that I wasn’t half bad. While I was never at the top of the pack, I did manage to push a respectable six or seven minute mile at my peak (I think? It’s been years, cut me a break). Somewhere along the line, though, I’d messed up. I probably mistook the pain for an oddly low side stitch, or thought it was something to walk off…but for whatever reason, some time after the season ended I started having a slight limp in my right leg.

This went on for a while. My mom would occasionally express concern that I would then brush off- I was fine, barely noticing it, and it didn’t hurt. No big deal at all. Then one day, as kids are known to do, one of my classmates came from behind and tripped me, looping his own foot around my right ankle and pushing. The limp became decidedly more pronounced after that- to the point that even I had to admit I wasn’t walking well- and with it came a constant, dull pain.

I don’t really remember how long it took between these events, nor do I exactly recall the order in which some of them occurred. There are two key moments that I do remember though- once, I was staying home for the evening while my mom was out doing something or another. Up to that point things had been worrisome, but not so much that I needed, or would have wanted, constant supervision. However, my legs were prone, from time to time, to uncontrolled moving. Even today, if I position my foot in such a way, I’ll start unconsciously bobbing it repeatedly. That particular night, while watching cartoons to help pass the time, my right leg started to bob…and then ripping pain started to erupt up and down my right leg.

It felt like knives were tearing into my leg, and I couldn’t stop it because my leg kept moving, which inflamed the pain even further. It was like a cascading waterfall of pain and here I was, alone, trying to hold my leg still while it felt like fifty power drills were going at it. Later one morning (it might have been the following morning, actually), my dad came into my room to wake me up. At that point I couldn’t even get of bed- the slightest touch or shimmer of movement ignited the aforementioned pain at full force, and would occasionally begin to climb to hitherto unknown heights of pain. Now that I’m older and a lot more removed from the situation, I think that my dad must have been scared shitless. At the time, though, all I knew was that my father was trying to make me move and holy God he better not touch me and whatever-happened-to-doctors-making-housecalls?!

Somehow my dad forced me into his truck and got me to the hospital. I was admitted rather quickly and began one of the most terrifying experiences in my life. This is where time really starts to warp for me- most of what I remember is felt through a thick cloud of morphine and an utter nervous breakdown. They did CAT scans and MRIs and took constant blood tests. I remember crying a lot. At one point, two doctors (neither of whom I think realized I was somewhat cognizant) discussed a cloudy image of my hip. I know I heard the word “cancer” and, being the type of kid who obsessed over books of medical diagnoses and expressed a preternatural fear of death, it was probably one of the worst things I could ever hear. In any case, after staying at the first hospital for a few days, it was decided that I should be sent on to Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, MI.

So here I was. I was eleven years old, convinced I was going to be diagnosed with cancer, and completely exhausted from all the mental energies I had expended in the process of digesting that fact. Would the cancer be operable? What if they just cut off my leg? What would life be like if I didn’t have my leg? This, in addition to all the crying and heavy medication, basically positioned me at the emotional low point of my entire life. I was an utter wreck, just reaching the point of acceptance and preparing to consign myself to whatever misfortune the doctors told me I was going to have.

But then, a nurse greeted me in my new room at Hurley. He’d come in to prep me for my first blood test of the night, but before taking off he asked me one simple question: Did I want them to wheel in the Nintendo 64 or the Sony Playstation?

I was floored. I could have a game system? In my Hospital Room?!

Apparently I was, at that point, the only youth in the children’s ward at the time- everyone else was either a newborn or an exhausted mother. Thus it was that I had my pick of the litter between the two major hitters in the second great console war, the N64 and the Playstation. I opted to have the Nintendo 64, and they wheeled one in with a copy of Super Mario 64. It was amazing. By the end of my stay, I’d completely beaten the game and moved on to the Playstation.

Hurley Children’s Hospital did a lot of great things for me. They treated me with care and, most importantly, they treated me like a kid. They understood I was full of fears and stupid questions that they would patiently answer. They got me in front of specialists who diagnosed me with Osteomyelitis in my hip- I’d apparently ripped my hip muscle when running and the infection had spread to the bone. But, as important as all those other things are, the big turnaround for me came when that one nurse asked me whether I wanted a Nintendo 64 or a Playstation. That was the moment of my hospitalization where, after a seemingly endless barrage of things getting worse, it occurred to me that things could actually be okay.

Again, I don’t want to understate all the other great aspects of Hurley Children’s Hospital’s care- but I really can’t overstate the importance of having access to something like video games for an eleven year old kid. When I played Mario 64, my sense of being sick and in pain melted away. I was able to be a kid again. When my best friend visited me in the hospital, we were able to play the Independence Day game together on the hospital’s Playstation. Were it not for me being hooked up to IVs and in a Hospital bed, it would have been just another day of hanging out. Having been in that position, I can’t -truly, honestly can’t- downplay how important it is to inject that kind of normalcy into a sick kid’s situation. That is why, when I found out about the Extra Life charity marathon, I chose to join it and support Hurley Children’s Hospital. It’s just my way of giving back to them the same way they gave back to me- through play.


Once again, we hope you enjoy the content we produce. If you do, please consider a small donation towards our Extra Life Charity Page- really, that’s the entire reason this site and our content exists- to help support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. We will also be streaming our 24 hour marathon gaming session starting this Saturday, October 25th at 5:00 PM EST. The Streaming Site can be found at http://www.twitch.tv/aozain. 100% of ALL donations (no matter which team member you sponsor) go to support Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, Michigan. 

Click HERE to donate to Seth! 
Click HERE to donate to David!
Click HERE to donate to Tim!



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