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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Here's to John Smallwood, one of the very best people on the planet

As the headline says, this post is to John Smallwood of Philly, one of the very best people on this planet. Let's just make sure he's back on the road to a full recovery and we can stand at his side at a sporting event (of his choice) very, very soon.

Here's his column from today:

John Smallwood: Away from sports, and appreciating them more

By John Smallwood

I miss the rhythm of a Phillies game; the collisions of an Eagles Sunday; the lightning pace of Flyers hockey; the athleticism of a Sixers game.

Watching on television is not the same, not when you've covered sports up close and personal for 22 years.

I haven't been to a live sporting event since the Eagles' home opener.

On Sept. 24, I had successful surgery to have two defective heart valves replaced. Then something went terribly wrong.

I had complications, unrelated issues that turned a lifesaving procedure into a near-death experience.

I've been hospitalized ever since. I was placed into a medically induced coma for 2 weeks. Some of the doctors thought I would die.

I don't remember the first half of October, but it was weird to have person after person come into my room and say it was amazing how good I looked and tell me how far I had come.

Thanks to a lot of support from a lot of people, I'm still here.

I hope none of you ever finds this out, but hospitals are truly amazing places. I'm in the Christiana Care System, and the people here literally saved my life.

Obviously, you start with miracle-working doctors, who suddenly were faced with the unexpected during my surgery and reacted instantaneously to combat the issues.

But my true heroes have been the registered nurses and nurse assistants. Without their 24-hour care and assistance, I don't think I could have made it.

It's been amazing how much care they've shown. I was a stranger, but they've guarded me and watched over me as if I were their child.

Yes, I know that is their job, but it takes special souls to care the way they do.

I thank them all.

Sometimes you forget how good something is until it has been taken away.

Sports writing is the only job I've had since graduating from the University of Maryland in 1986.

But lately, I've become frustrated.

These are hard times for newspapers, and the cutbacks, layoffs and slashing of travel budgets have been taxing. Sometimes you feel as if external forces are preventing you from doing your job to the best of your ability.

I won't lie. I'm in this for the paycheck, but I still take pride in what I do.

I want to be the best columnist I can be. I want to serve our readers with the respect and appreciation they deserve. I want to continue to help the Daily News produce the best sports section in the country. Sometimes I'm not sure I am doing that.

I have one of the coolest jobs around. I get to write about things that are my passion. I've covered some of the greatest sporting events.

This has been a harsh way to be reminded of that, but it's an offshoot of what I'm going through.

By now, most of the people here know I'm a sports reporter. Naturally, the talk for a while was about the Phillies and the World Series. All I could think about was, I should be there.

I should have been at the Sixers' home opener, or writing about Allen Iverson's future. I should have been writing about Temple becoming bowl eligible for the first time in a generation. I should have been attending an Andy Reid "say-no-evil" news conference, after a bad loss to the Cowboys.

Watching the World Series on television was no fun knowing you could have been experiencing the atmosphere of a sold-out Citizens Bank Park or Yankee Stadium.

Television doesn't accurately display the explosion of emotion during a big Eagles victory.

I'm in physical therapy rehabilitation now. Hopefully, I will able to go home soon and get back to work.

The games must go on. It's just been painful to watch them go on without me.

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