Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cardinal Basile details health struggles as athlete

Peter Basile is cheered on by teamates as he rounds a corner mid-race at the Field House Feb. 7.


By Peter Basile

Peter Basile wrote this op-ed to recount his personal experience. It is written from his first-person perspective.


Everybody wants the perfect life. They want to be able to shoot for the stars in whatever they are doing, but the harsh reality is that life is filled with bumps, bruises and unavoidable obstacles. 

That’s what makes life a journey and such a beautiful experience. The bumps along the way are what shape people into who they are and it shows the true character of that person. 

In my case, I have had many positives. But I’ve also had and am still having hardships and obstacles that I am going through. My story is one of triumph and perseverance. 

I will forever think of it to get me through my best and worst days. This is the story of my Lyme disease and how it has affected me in my athletic life, but most importantly, my mental health.

My name is Peter Basile and I am a junior at SUNY Plattsburgh. I’m a fitness and wellness leadership major. I am a part of the cross country and track teams at the school. I have been running since I was in fourth grade, so you can say I have been doing this kind of thing for a long time. 

One of the most important parts of this story is understanding what Lyme disease is. Lyme disease is an infectious illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks. 

The disease can range in many symptoms, some worse than others. If it is not treated and caught on quickly, it can affect your nervous system, joints and organs. 

Lyme disease cannot be cured, but it can be treated to the point where it goes dormant. Once you get it, you will always test positive for it, but it does not mean it is active.

I had no symptoms of the disease until it was too late. It got to the point that it affected my joints.

In seventh grade, I was playing with my friends at an event. While we played, I fell down and felt a pop in my knee. It did not really hurt so I thought nothing of it. Over the next couple of days, my knee swole to the point where I could not see my kneecap. 

Both a general practitioner and an orthopedic doctor told me simply that there was fluid in my knee. I just left it and waited to see if the fluid would go away. 

My primary doctor recommended I get my knee drained of the fluid. The doctor told me that a normal adult usually gets 45 cubic centimeters of fluid drained, while my knee needed 55 ccs of fluid removed. The doctor could tell it was Lyme simply by the color of the fluid.

I was put on antibiotics and the fluid went away. I was good to go. It went dormant until my junior year in high school, and that’s where the nightmare truly began for me.

During my junior year of cross country I was at the peak of my athletic ability and was in position to go to states as an individual runner. Midway through the season, I developed horrible pains in my legs. I could barely run. 

The pain took me out for the rest of my high school career.

In December of my junior year, I went to a doctor to get a blood test and got heartbreaking results. I was told that the Lyme had “reactivated” and that it was back. I was crushed by the news. 

I saw four to five doctors before one was able to figure out the source of my leg pain. The doctor determined that I had chronic Lyme disease, which gave me tendinitis in both of my knees. 

I almost cried after hearing someone finally figure out what was wrong with me. Now that I knew what was wrong, it was time to take the beast down and get the treatment I needed.

The first thing that I needed to do was get the Lyme under control and put it in a dormant state. I started treatment in the Stram Center, a specialized facility for treating Lyme.

One of the forms of treatment was using a hyperbaric chamber, which is a pressurized container that flows oxygen to your body. The HBOT has been shown to elevate tissue oxygen, which can be lethal to Lyme bacteria, increase white blood cell activity and enhance antimicrobial responses. 

Oxygen is essential in the killing of bacteria and by exponentially raising oxygen levels through the body, the efficiency of bactericidal action of white blood cells can be enhanced dramatically.

 Another form of treatment I pursued was heavy antibiotics. They were so heavy that they had to be given through an IV. I had to do this treatment for about five weeks and go two to three times a week. 

In order to not poke me every time, they kept the port in my arm and took it out at the end of the week. It was very challenging also because the treatment took between 90 minutes and two hours. 

My next step was physical therapy in order to strengthen my legs since they were so crippled from Lyme.

My treatment was during my senior year of high school. As I ran, I was still going through plenty of pain. It was hard being a senior and not being able to compete the way I wanted to. During the cross country season, I was a captain of the team, which was nice, but didn’t last long. One day, my coach pulled me aside and told me I was a negative influence on everyone because of what I was going through and stripped me of my title. 

When my coaches began to doubt me because of my disease, it broke me. I tried to be the best person possible through my struggles and my coach thought I was a negative influence because of my disease. My senior year of high school was one of my darkest times, until I was given the opportunity to be on a college team. I am still so grateful for the opportunity to do it and that’s where the battle would continue for me.

When I first started college, I was still going to the trainers and having to strengthen myself because my knees were still weak. When I first started, I could not run a mile without severe pain. Eventually, I started to get stronger and I was able to run without pain. It felt so good. I began to heal physically, but I began to suffer mentally.

Years later, I am still dealing with it mentally. It’s like a lingering demon that haunts me. If I got any pain in my legs, I would shut down and think that the Lyme was coming back, which was not the case. This happened this past cross country season and it started to eat me alive. I felt trapped and I thought there was nothing I could do.

When I thought all hope was lost, I realized that I was surrounded by a good group of people who had my back and were there for me. They do not know how much they have helped me through this long battle, but now they are going to know now. So, I am going to shout out all the people who have helped me and are continuing to help me through this journey;

Nate Alexander, Noah Bonesteel, Michael Brockway, Zander Brown, Matt DeJuilo, Nick Gelsomino, Sean Grady, Jeremy Gundrum, Evan Howe, Erik Kucera, Justin Kumrow, Matthias Lauvau, Lukas McIntosh, Graham Richard, Denali Rodriguez-Garnica, Logan Van Buren, Faris Webber, JT Zimmerman, Grace Boyle, Natalia Castro, Marissa Colvin, Sophia Gambino, Kailyn Ginter, Kayla Grant, Ginny Lucchetti, Jodie May, Lillian Moran, Julia Robinson, Anya Sloth, Sarah Smith, Jayelee Southwell, Coach Jordan Naylon, and Coach Andrew Krug.

All these great people are the reason why I have been able to fight this and get through it. They have been there for me through all of this and have made it so easy to battle this demon head-on. They also never stopped believing in me, which I thank them for. I am so grateful that I have them in my life and I just wanted them to know that. Even if you think you had a small part in it, you were a huge part for me and I am so grateful for you all. I love these people so much and I would put my life on the line for them. They showed me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. 

I also want to shout out my parents and my family for being there also and making sure I got better. I would not be in the position I am right now without mentioning everyone so thank you again. You mean the world to me and my life would be empty without all of you.

The lesson that I learned from this is to be patient and trust the process. When facing adversity, trust that the storm will pass and that a beautiful path will follow. Everything will be OK and things will get better. That was something that I struggled with a long time and had to learn. Never give up on your dreams and never back down from a fight.

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