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Dane Issigonis and his family.

Dane Issigonis, Part 3: Chaos in the Emergency Room

02/18/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

The toughest decision any family will ever have to make.

In part 2 of my interview with Dane Issigonis and his family, Dane, in his own special way, showed me that I didn’t need to worry so much about players being injured on the ice. 

Read part 1.

Read part 2.

I know, that sounds slightly morbid, but Dane broke his jaw to a point where half his face was facing the wrong way, and he got up and skated off the ice. 

Injuries happen in hockey. Bad ones. This is why hockey equipment is better than ever.

This is part of what hockey teaches us - anything you can get up and walk away from is something you can grow from. 

Because some day it might not be so easy to get up. 

Here’s part 3.


Troy Issigonis: He had a broken jaw and it was sticking out and when he got to the bench and he closed his mouth his teeth weren’t lined up. 

And he’s like, “did I knock my teeth out? Did I knock my teeth out?”

Dane: I got off and I’m like I think I broke my jaw. My coach is like, no, no, you’re just loopy and I was like oh alright, well then did I knock all my teeth out because like I can’t feel them. He said, no, no you’re fine, you’re fine. And then he went back to running the drill. And I walked down to the dressing room, I remember one of the Troys saw me, and I guess I was kind of leaning up against the glass like going down.

Kelvin: Messed up slightly?

Dane: Yeah, yeah.

Karen: That was Chris Grey and he said something didn’t look right.

Dane: So I get down to the dressing room and that’s when it kind of started to hit me, like where’s my mom?

Kelvin: It probably started to hurt? Initially the shock wore off?

Dane: Yeah. Then I remember, typical hockey player syndrome, of course I skate off, get in the dressing room and they got ice in a sock, a hockey sock, and put it up against my jaw.

Kelvin: I don’t know, you say typical hockey player, I know a lot of hockey players who might not be as willing to get up and walk away…

Troy: Nobody else would get off the ice. It was sticking out like this and it was broken in like 6 places, it was shattered, basically. 

Kelvin: So you had one really bad accident, an issue that you had no control over, I’m jumping ahead here but whatever. You’ve had to go through a lot and how old are you now 14, 15?

Dane: 15. And I also broke my wrist.

Kelvin: How did you do that?

Dane: We were playing indoor soccer surprisingly, you know those big fuzzy soccer balls?

Kelvin: Oh man, yeah, yeah.

Dane: My brother kicked it, he’s 6 years older than me, I was 4, he was 10 and I went to put my wrist down to block it and it just snapped.

Kelvin: So you’ve had some broken bones then. And you’ve had an issue in your brain.

Dane: Yeah.

Kelvin: The only bone I’ve ever broken was my fist and it’s because I lost a hockey game, talk about not appreciating your own body, I punched a wall, when I was probably your age, my first year of midget. I punched a wall and it’s still kind of swollen up, it’s not quite right so when I play hockey it still hurts.

Karen: I sometimes think that was all meant to be, it almost prepared him in a sense - a lot of kids have never spent any time in the hospital with broken bones or anything  so I sometimes think, you know what? Maybe that was meant to prepare you in some way? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know, it’s a lot for one kid I tell you.

Kelvin: When you’re going through hell, you only have one option and that’s to keep going, right? Or you stop and you never get out. I don’t necessarily believe that things happen for a reason or anything like that but things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it other than proceed, move forward. 

What was the next step after spending boxing day in the hospital? How did life roll out for you? You’re still here and I’ve seen you on the ice. So obviously you play hockey now, you’re still playing. How long did it take for you to get back to being able to play hockey?

Dane: I was in like intense rehab from I guess, really, January until June.

Kelvin: How long were you in the hospital?

Dane: I was in Children’s for how long – like a week?

Karen: Oh no, no, no. It was about 20-some odd days I guess.

Dane: But I was in Lions Gate.

Karen: No, just for that day and then they transferred you, right? And then it was about 9 days in ICU and another 9 after that in recovery, and then Sunny Hills Rehab hospital, he was there for 4 months.

Kelvin: And was it pins and needles for you guys the whole time? Were you starved for information?

Karen: Yeah. There’s a lot of unknown, right, so we were, both of us are kind of black and white thinkers so what can we expect, it was tough. He was in an induced coma for a long time. When he came out of that no one knew what you were going to get, and then from there, he’s not moving one side of his body, he’s not really talking, and then you try to keep him talking.

Troy: He kept moving his head like this . . .

Karen: It was really scary and then, even as he started to come around, they would still say you know we don’t really know, it’s different with everyone.

Kelvin: Did they ever actually say, this is what happened, he suffered this?

Karen: Oh yeah.

Troy: We knew he had an AVM bleed right away.

Kelvin: What does that stand for?

Troy: Arteriovenous malformation. What it is, in your brain there’s veins and arteries and they’re supposed to separate and have tissue between the two of them because your arteries are high pressure, your veins are low pressure. If they’re too close together, the veins are exposed to the high blood pressure from the arteries and they can’t take it. So if there’s a ball of them, it’s just a matter of time until the veins can’t take the high pressure from the blood and they burst and that’s what happened. So if you have that little malformation where the veins and the arteries haven’t really separated properly, it’s a 3% chance of bleeding each year.

Dane: And it adds on each year, so like…

Kelvin: 3%, then 6…

Troy: Yeah, 3% chance so if you have, for the people that have them, there’s a 30% chance it will bleed before you’re 10, there’s a 60% chance it’ll bleed before you’re 20 . You make it to 30, you’re kind of over.

Kelvin: You’re out of the woods?

Troy: No, you’re just, there’s a 90% chance every year it’s 3% again.

Karen: So it’s common but uncommon too. They know there’s a certain area where they are and so by the bleed in his brain I think the surgeon had a pretty good idea that it was an arteriovenous malformation. They kind of know that area, they know the characteristics of it and so then when he did the surgery of course he just went in and basically resected it, took that piece out and resected it because of the huge bleed in his brain.

Kelvin: And was that a pretty, like that sounds like a gigantic accomplishment to be able to do . . .

Karen: Even do that.

Kelvin: To piece that area back together.

Troy: They didn’t give him much hope at the thing. As a matter of fact, Children’s wouldn’t even take him.

Karen: Yeah, they just, they gave him, it’s called a, not a nap guard that’s a baby scale, what’s the scale called? Anyway it’s basically your breathing, your heart rate, all these sort of medical components, and they didn’t tell us that at the time, we knew it was really bad but we went back and met with the surgeon, when Dane couldn’t walk, we took him back in there. He was really frank and he just said to Dane, that you were at the bottom of that scale, the next step down was you’re not here. So he said that was probably the worst case scenario.

Troy: I can still remember in the, like it was a fire drill in the ambulance and the emergency room and resuscitation room, and in that resuscitation room there would be sometimes 18 people, they were running around, throwing stuff, and opening drug packages and IVs, this and that, the guy piecing it together was a children’s doctor, so he had phones in both ears talking to these doctors, that doctor and the ambulance guy, he was kind of ready to go, he’s on the phone and then they were on with Children’s and they’re like…

Dane: Get a bed ready.

Troy: Get a bed ready and then they’re like, no, he’s not going to make it. No, he’s not going to make it, no. What are we going to do, what are we going to do? 

And it wasn’t until Children’s said that he wasn’t going to make it over there and if he didn’t make it, there wouldn’t be any point of operating and so then they said “well f*%k it, we’ll operate here”. 


The despair in the room, the interview room with Dane's family I mean, was palpable at this point. Dane looks down at the floor, Troy wrings his hands tighter, Karen, sitting beside me, tries not to cry. 

I try not to cry. Here’s this young boy, still young, who was once told that operating on his brain to save his life wasn’t worth the attempt. 

The chaos in  the emergency room. The ambulance, like a fire drill. 

I know failure is possible. I know that trying to move Dane or trying to operate on him was a risk. Not operating, though?

In life, isn’t it always worth it to try? This is what Dane has taught me - if you’re going to fail, fail falling forward, not backward. 


Next week, Part 4:

Troy Issigonis: And they called up Dr. Mutat who came down about 8:30am.

Kelvin Cech: This is 2 hours after you got there?

Troy: Yeah. He said, he started to go over some of the scans and he said see all this? 

This is all blood. 

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