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Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017
Bushuk battles for berth in Brazil
2016-05-01
by Randy Pascal

The youngest of four children in the family, Mike Bushuk participated in sport for the love of sport. No unrealistic dreams, or crazy parents constantly at his back.

Yet fame, in a sporting sense, might still someday come his way - even if the pathway he has travelled to this potential destination is not one he would wish upon anyone.

A native of Ajax, Bushuk arrived at Laurentian University blessed with an athletic background, though not at all laden with visions of elitism. "My parents were very keen on "well-roundedness", so my sisters and I were enrolled in as many sports programs, and music programs, as possible," said Bushuk.

"To be perfectly honest, I played a lot of sports - hockey, cross-country running, swimming, tennis - but I was never that type of kid that wanted to be a professional hockey player. I did it to have fun, stay active, even just the social aspect."

All of which factored into his decision, in October of 2013, to suit up with the Sudbury Stones rugby team, a sport he had enjoyed in high school, for their fall "sevens" tournament in town.

"I had just found out that there was a club here," said Bushuk. Early that Saturday morning, his life would take an unexpected turn. "I got tackled from behind," he recalled. "It was a clean tackle, but I dislocated my knee."

The dislocation, Bushuk would find out, could be repaired. Same for the torn ACL, PCL and LCL. Those facets of the injury were not the problem. "I also transected the main artery, just behind my knee." Not diagnosed until a few hours into his trek to the emergency room and surgery, the transection effectively cut off the bulk of the blood-flow to his lower leg.

"They did a vein graft from my thigh, flipped it and spliced it to restablish blood flow," Bushuk stated. By the time the surgery was completed, the now 24 year old had gone almost twelve hours with insufficient blood pumping through to his muscles and nerves.

"I almost lost my leg," he said. "I should have lost my leg. The saving grace was that I was fit, and there was a lot of collateral blood flow that was supplied to the lower part of my leg." He was left, instead, with drop foot, only partial ability to move his left foot in a variety of directions most of us take for granted.

By February of 2014, Bushuk had returned to L.U., likely with little thought of resuming any kind of sports-related activities. "Getting around campus was not too big of an issue," he said. "I'm fortunate that I can walk."

Soon came the helping hands. "After the injury, it wasn't until I came back to school that (rowing coach) Amanda (Schweinbenz) approached me. Erging is good physio. I started out, and it was all upper body, but it slowly progressed."

With another surgery slated for July of 2014, Bushuk would regularly make his way back to the rowing ergometer. "I continued rowing for rehab," he stated. "It's basically just last summer that my scores have met the (paralympic) qualifying standards, and it still hasn't quite hit me."

In mid April, Bushuk joined four other Canadian paralympic rowers who attended a re-classification session in Gavirate, Italy. Nothing is carved in stone, but Bushuk is at least in the mix of athletes being looked at as possible first alternates for the Canadian Paralympic rowing team.

"I've never dreamed about being a professional athlete," said Bushuk. "Opportunity has come knocking. I'm being given a chance to maybe be a spare for the Canadian Paralympic rowing team."

Completing his Masters in Interdisciplinary Health, and working as a Teacher's Assistant for three classes, Bushuk knows that trying to balance all of his commitments, with the training necessary to rank among the national elite, will not be easy.

The payoff, however, could be huge. "Going to the Paralympics would be fantastic, an amazing opportunity."

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