Friday, October 20, 2000
The Halifax Herald Limited
By Monty Mosher / Herald Sports
As a university quarterback, Acadia's Dan Carnevale knows how to take a hit.
But nothing prepared him for the September day last year when he learned at the ripe old age of 21 he had multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disorder.
"For a while I started to get really dizzy and I started to lose feeling in my right arm and right leg," said Mississauga's Carnevale, who has quarterbacked the Axemen to consecutive wins in the absence of injured starter Kristin Pipe.
"I decided to go to the hospital and they took a CAT-scan of my brain and they thought it was a tumor originally."
Doctors in Kentville located a spot on his brain. At the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, doctors performed an MRI and made the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
"Basically I was in shock," he said. "Up until that point, you know, no one ever thinks it could happen to them. I didn't know what to think. The first thing I thought of was my parents and my friends. I was kind of depressed for a while."
Multiple sclerosis, known commonly as MS, is a disorder of the central nervous system. It involves decreased nerve function associated with the formation of scars on the covering of nerve cells.
MS affects approximately one out of 1,600 people and is most common in women. The disorder most often begins between ages 20 and 40.
There are dozens of symptoms, including weakness, paralysis and tremors in the extremities. Muscle spasms and muscle atrophy are also common.
Decreased coordination, loss of balance, dizziness, vertigo, decreased memory, depression - all devastating to anyone let alone an athlete - may occur.
There is no known cure. The cause is a mystery.
Carnevale said there are prescription drugs to take after an attack, but there is no prevention.
Attacks may come at any time and last days or months. Then the symptoms may disappear completely.
"The prognosis I was told is you could see it (an attack) next week or you might not see it again until you are 60," said Carnevale. "It's very unpredictable."
He's had some dizzy spells and moments where he shakes, but nothing like the first attack, which is frequently the worst.
Entering his third year of business school last September, Carnevale had no warning signs of an impending illness.
After the attack, he lost coordination in his right arm and right leg.
Not only was football out of the question, he couldn't write or type. He pulled out of school for the year.
"All I could do was walk. For the longest time I couldn't even spell my name so I thought it was unfair for me to be in school and waste all that money if I couldn't put forth my best effort."
He went back home, saw more doctors in Toronto and had the diagnosis confirmed.
"I spent the year reteaching myself how to do the basics. After a while I started to lift weights again, started to run again."
He called Acadia head coach Sonny Wolfe in July and told him he wanted to attempt a comeback in the fall.
"It never crossed my mind that I wasn't going to play again. I wasn't satisfied with what I had done so far. I felt like I had to come back.
"I just kept doing the little things, taking it a day at a time and I started to realize that, hey, this is not so hard. I just came back, I felt good and talked it over with the coaches and told them I want to play. They told me to do what I feel is right and I said, 'This feels right'."
Wolfe has been aware of the diagnosis from the outset. Carnevale's teammates know as well.
Otherwise, Carnevale has kept his situation to himself, not wanting to be viewed any differently than anyone else in the Axemen dressing room.
He loathes sympathy and only told his story to explain MS and perhaps be of use to someone else.
"I don't like people feeling sorry for me. I mean there are a lot more things to feel sorry for than a person who got to play football. I never thought of it as a big deal."
His teammates have never made his MS an issue.
"The guys have showed unbelievable confidence. They've said they have 100 per cent faith in me. I couldn't have asked for anything better. That's what's really helped me. I'm just another teammate. They were excited to watch me play and I was excited to play."
In his first CIAU start, Carnevale threw for 310 yards as Acadia beat St. F.X. 41-7.
He had another 261 yards last week as Acadia downed Mount A 44-17.
Now Pipe is practising again and may return to his top perch this Saturday.
"I'm very happy with what happened. I knew Kristin was going to be the
No. 1 guy when I came back and so it's not a big shock he's going to go
back in starting. The team needed me for two games and we needed two victories
and we got them."