“Hold on to hope, to the last possibility, the slightest chance, the most remote probability …
Get knitted and beat the bank …
Become that 0.1 that changes the statistic, I broke with the unanimity that makes the pessimist proud …
Be your own hero and encourage those who dream of being their own …
I kept holding on, resisted the pull. Hold on!”
TO Rodrigo Gerhardt he likes writing, almost as much as playing basketball. And between what heard the worst news of his life (acoustic nerve tumor, on November 28, 2019), and who decided to undergo an operation that could leave irreversible consequences (April 13, 2020) went through different times. Some of pessimism, sadness, uncertainty and suffering, and others of positivism, illusion, hope and confidence. Therefore, that January 11, 2020, overwhelmed by the negative, he let his feelings push him towards the second stadium.
“I wrote this one day when I was afraid of what was coming. I suppose waiting for the miracle that everything would go well, trying to convince myself that everything could be what I wrote. These days, rereading old things, I realized that I was that 0.1 and I became the case of success that I had not found in everything I had read. In a nutshell, I became my own hero “, he relates in conversation with Infobae.
At 23, Rodrigo had everything a young man could wish for. He played the sport he loved and got paid for it. He had a place in the first division of Argentine basketball, the mythical National League, and nothing less than a historic club like Ferro. But suddenly his life changed. One could think for the worse, but today he assures that for the better, that he would not modify anything that happened -and he suffered-, although today he drags the total deafness of his left ear.
“I started with episodes of vertigo and vomiting at night during a trip through the South American League. Ferro’s doctor gave me a medication and they paused, but we decided to make an appointment with a vertigo specialist and she urgently referred me to an otoneurologist, a genius who did several studies on me. I couldn’t stand it and when they gave me the report, I opened it and read it, ”he says.
Those later seconds were the worst, devastating, especially when he read “Vestibular schawannoma” And it did what specialists recommend never to do: Google what it means. “I read cancer, auditory nerve tumor, which can lead to death. Go figure…”, continues. From there he went to a meeting with the club doctor. “He told me that I had to have surgery So what could be left with facial paralysis. My legs went limp and I came out wanting to cry. I wanted to die. I went home and that night it was hard for me, but the next day I was better. That surprised me, like you cling to that survival instinct … ”, he recalls.
But they were difficult days for him. “The visit to the neurologist left me worse because it was very cold and it threw me everything bad that could happen to me. He told me that I had to operate yes or yes, sooner rather than later, because the tumor was already large and it was pushing the cortex of the brain and I could grab hydrocephalus, and he detailed the consequences of the intervention. As 12 nerves go through there, he told me that it could affect my arms or legs, even my swallowing nerve, so I could spend months eating by tube. I came out very sad. I understand that doctors should be like that, tough, prepare you for the worst, but that left me dejected, “he recalls about those days in January.
There were all kinds of tests at that time, until he realized that only one option was left to him. “I tried everything, even homeopathy, but it didn’t work and one day I was crying and I told her that I appreciated everything they did, but that I needed certainty… I couldn’t continue in doubt. I already wanted to have surgery and face how it was going to be ”. And sometimes in the dark, the light appears. “I was sick until I saw another neurologist, from Fleni, who was more tactful and was even comical in the consultation, without ceasing to tell me everything … I took better and decided to operate with him. His name is Andrés Cervio and I will be eternally grateful. It deserves a monument. The ENT who operated with him crossed it to my mother and told her that the work he did with me was a work of art. I, in those months, I had read all kinds of medical and scientific reports, and in no case did I find that the patient has left without facial paralysis. It may sound superficial, but for a 23-year-old boy, it’s hard … Well, It was my turn to get away, I am the miracle that I never expected. The result of positivity. Of the good energy that I had around me. And, of course, from the surgeon’s hand, without a doubt ”, he reasons.
Rodrigo still remembers how those first minutes after the operation were, when he woke up from the anesthesia and, almost desperately, he sought to know what consequences had remained. “I didn’t start well (laughs), because the first thing that happened to me, with the mask on, was vomiting… But, well, the second thing was moving my fingers and toes. I seemed to have no problems. Then lI asked the nurse if her face was okay. And she said yes. I can’t explain the relief, the happinessI felt … I had a buzzing in my ear, I knew I would not hear from the left, but I did not care. It was just that … I was not interested, for me it was secondary, “he explains.
The mental openness that Gerhardt had to take on the problem allowed him to open up to learnings that would change his life. “For me it was a rebirth and I would not change anything that happened, not even the deafness. My whole life changed, I don’t think I have anything similar to what I was before. I am another person, I have another philosophy of life. I feel that life gave me a second chance and that I should take advantage of it. Because, in addition, being hard of hearing gave me new opportunities, such as having the chance to play an Olympiad with the Silent Basketball National Team ”, rescues who is now without a professional team but does not become a problem. “I do not have anxieties, as before, another of the changes that I notice in my personality,” he says.
To find the origins of Rodrigo and his passion for basketball, you have to go to Bahía Blanca, the Capital of Basketball. There, a place where sport is breathed, is the explanation of everything. The maternal grandparents lived close to Bahiense del Norte, the mythical neighborhood club where the Ginobili, Sergio Hernández, Puma Montecchia, among others, came from. They, his uncles, lived in the institution of Salta 28 and, by tradition of the city and family inheritance, Rodrigo ended up hugging an orange ball and starting at the age of four. The leap was when he entered the Young Talents program of Bahía Basket, the franchise that Pepe Sánchez built in 2010. “I took it more seriously, in a more professional way and that way I was able to get to the National League,” he says.
That promotion gave him the jump to the minor teams of the country. First for a tournament in Germany, then for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, the next year he was among the 12 for the World Cup in the category, in 2017 he was at the University Games in China-Taipei and in 2018 he was even flagged at the Pan American University Games. “Representing the country is the most beautiful thing there is and not to mention being the standard bearer of a national delegation. Not in the most incredible dream did I imagine something like this. That is why now, being in a National Team again is something very special. I live it as a gift ”, admits who after the operation returned to play professionally (in Tomás de Rocamora, in the Argentine League, the second division) and, suddenly, he found the call to the Topos, the deaf team that is preparing for the Deaf Olympics of Caxias do Sul (Brazil), in May 2022. “If I got there, it would be something incredible. I still have to have an audiometry and see if they accept me, because there are different criteria when it comes to hearing, but I’m looking forward to it. Being in an Olympic Game is unmatched. Be it university, silent or whatever. I’ve already experienced one and would love to be in another. Hopefully it can be confirmed, ”says this 2-meter forward.
Meanwhile, Rodrigo tries to adapt to his new life, on and off the court. “I’m doing it. When I sleep, I support the side that I do not hear on the pillow so that if something happens or they talk to me, I can find out. Or when I walk with someone I try to go to the left side so I can hear them. I adapt myself and those around me. And it is my turn on the court, with the boys, many of whom are totally deaf. The first day I asked a colleague ‘che, how do the picks sing (curtains)’ because basketball is very vocal and everything is silent here. Sometimes they touch you or kick you on the floor to make it vibrate and thus notice. There are funny, funny situations, but more than anything it is to adapt to this 360 degree turn that life gave. It is quite a challenge, especially to learn sign language ”, he highlights.
-Just in your networks you uploaded videos to spread the sign language.
-Yes, I learned the basics so far. But I like it. Some things come out by intuition, like eating (making a pile and in the mouth), and others are teaching me. It is not easy for me, I am to communicate a lot. The difficult thing is to shut up, think and make signs, but it is a great challenge in my life and I am achieving it little by little. It would be good if it was disseminated more, that it was taught in schools and Physical Education teachers, to integrate the deaf and that is what I do from my networks. With that and with the selected one. I tell my story in part for this, to help spread. I have a degree in marketing, I really like communication and I am clear that I should take advantage of being better known, for having played in national teams or the National League, to make visible these adapted selections that it costs them more to reach the media or companies. The Argentine Federation of Deaf Basketball (FABS) needs it. And especially the boys who want to play sports, who should not be left out just because they are deaf ”, he assures.
Rodrigo is grateful. With this new opportunity, in life and in sport. He does not look back, he does not deny the bad that happened to him. It stays with the good, with learning and with the present. He knows that we have to live today, tomorrow we do not know what fate will bring us …