When I woke up this morning to the news about the “Masterton Trophy” finalists, I thought for sure I would see Florida Panthers left-winger Tomas Fleischmann among the top 3 nominees. But to my greatest surprise, Fleischmann’s name was no-where to be found.
First off, I would like to take the time to congratulate the following Masterton Nominees: Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, Max Paxcioretty of the Montreal Canadians, and Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is no doubt in my mind that the three of these men have had to overcome some amazing trials and tribulations over the past few years struggling with issues such as age, back problems, surgeries and concussions that could have been career ending. But luckily for these three finalists, career-ending is the worst-case scenario as far as their injuries are concerned. As for Tomas Fleischmann, his injury is not exactly what you would call “fixable”, nor career-ending, but quite possibly, life-ending.
On his way back home from a long flight to the Czech Republic in 2008, Fleischmann noticed that he had lost feeling in his legs, only later to find he had been diagnosed with a genetic blood disorder called Deep Vein Thrombosis. This mutation is something that most people are born with but don’t find out they have it until a blood clot has already formed. This condition can be seen as very rare and uncommon. There are many issues that can arise from having this specific blood disorder. One being a blood clot within the deep veins of your body, a pulmonary embolism which is clotting that travels to your lungs, a heart attack or stroke, or if you’re a women, pregnancy loss or still birth. After the blood clot was discovered in his leg in 2008, a doctor told him he may never be able to play again, so naturally, Fleischmann searched for a second doctors opinion who gave him the OK to return back to the game he loved so dearly. But Fleischmann’s medical conditions were far from over. Mid-way through the 2010-2011 season, the Washington Capitals traded Tomas to the Colorado Avalanche where he skated off the ice during a practice because he was having difficulty catching his breath. Little did he know, his hockey career would soon be hanging by a thread.
After tallying 21 points in just 22 games, Fleischmann was en route to having a career year. But unfortunately, tragedy struck as blood clots were found in both of Tomas Fleischmann’s lungs (Pulmonary Embolism,) in which ended his season with the Avalanche a bit earlier than anyone would have expected. While being sidelined the rest of the season, Doctors had given him several tests as he anxiously waited to hear if he’d ever be able to play again.
From George Richards of the Miami Herald:
“A doctor told me I may not play hockey again. We had to wait on some testing,” said Fleischmann. “[Hockey] is the only the thing I am good at, the only thing I know how to do. When they tell you can’t do it, you wonder, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ But the decision was made two weeks after the test. I was excited.” -Tomas Fleischmann
Fleischmann was cleared to continue his hockey routine later that summer, in hopes that a team would sign the free-agent despite his genetic disorder. Unfortunately for Fleischmann, this is something that he will live with for the rest of his life. The doctors prescribed him an anticoagulant which is a blood thinning shot that he must inject DAILY through his stomach or thigh. He also must wear a rubberized compression suit under his dress suits on every plane he steps into.
From Craig Davis of the Sun-Sentinel:
“In general, people who are very active are somewhat protected from repeated blood clots,” said Dr. David Dennis, a hematologist in Plantation, “except when you throw in the issue of trauma, getting hit by hockey sticks or slamming your head into the ice. You have to commend his bravery; he must love this sport.” – Dr. David Dennis
But luckily for “Flash”, Dale Tallon, the GM of the Florida Panthers had full faith in him as he decided to sign him to a four-year, 18 million dollar contract on July 1st 2011, despite his blood condition. And most would say he made the right choice as the 27-year-old winger lead all Florida Panther players in this years 2011-2012 regular season with 61 points, and appeared in all 82 games. Not only did Fleischmann help lead his new team to a playoff run for the first time since 1999-2000, but helped earn his team a Southeast Division Championship banner which will be hanging from the rafters of the Bank Atlantic Center at the start of next season.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is something that is very difficult to deal with and to overcome. I asked my boss if I could do the honors of writing this article because I wanted everyone to know this isn’t just a split lip, black eye, or a backache. This is a life threatening and extremely uncommon blood disorder. I know all of this because I myself have Deep Vein Thrombosis. I was diagnosed with this blood disorder in May of 2009 and have been taking the same anticoagulant as Fleischmann everyday for the past 8 months as it’s a scary thing that I will have to live with the rest of my life. The Bottom line is, the risks that Tomas is taking everyday by stepping onto that ice are extremely bold and courageous, but could be extremely detrimental to his health. If you didn’t know already, The Bill-Masterton Award is given out the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” If this doesn’t describe Tomas Fleischmann, than I don’t know what does.
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