Finding your “why” can be hard. Sometimes balls are involved.

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I dribbled a basketball for the first time in a month yesterday. Yeah I was out of shape and just starting my conditioning again, but it didn’t matter. All that I cared about was that I was able to run around on the hardwood without worries or restrictions. The last time I was able to do that, I had to have surgery later that night.

When I originally started this blog, I listed “find your why” as among the original posts that I had on the docket. A lot of other cool topics came up, and as such, this was pushed back. I originally wanted to discuss the stories of athletes like Brandin Cooks of the New Orleans Saints and Edin Dzeko, the star Bosnian striker of Manchester City. But, in hindsight, that may have been too easy and too distant.

Regardless, I didn’t expect to write this post under the recent circumstances. So why am I writing this now? Because in the past month, I have found my “why.” It involves balls, and not of the basketball variety.

 

Cue Friday the 13th of June 2014. At 11 in the afternoon, I had some slight pains in my hip area. Sure, it’s whatever, I thought. I’ve had hip flexors and pinched nerves before. So I did what I always did when I had pain. I napped for 20 minutes. Then I changed into sweats and went to the gym to try and loosen myself up. I ran around a little bit, shot some hoops, and felt a bit better. The pain had subsided. Eureka.

I got back to work, did regular Friday business, and assumed everything was fine. At about 4:30 in the evening, the pain flared back up. This time I tried sitting, lying down, running around… nothing. The pain refused to go away. I had to go home. I rode my bike to get to the parking lot, and drove home. I wanted to just take some painkillers and sleep. One Tylenol and half an hour of rolling around on the mattress later, it struck me for the first time that something was actually wrong. I wasn’t even able to lie down. Should’ve known something would go wrong when I checked the calendar in the morning. Friday the 13th. Ugh. I was just surprised Jason Voorhees hadn’t shown up yet.

 

One of the truest measures of great friends is how quickly they drop everything to respond to any problem you may be having. After the failed attempt at the Tylenol-and-sleep strategy, I called my roommates to let them know my situation. They were at an important networking event, working on building a startup. Less than 10 minutes later though, both of them had arrived at our apartment.

I walked out and into the car, groaning and yelling curses at a rate that would have made drunken sailors blush. We whisked around from hospital to hospital trying to find an emergency room that could take me quickly. My emotions gradually shifted from pained to pissed. For “emergency” rooms, 4-hour wait times sure seemed to be the norm. While I didn’t know what exactly my problem was, I knew that I probably didn’t have 4 hours.

 

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Blood test selfie

We finally got into the Kirby Methodist after two and a half hours. Honestly Senthil, at the end of all of this, they’re probably just gonna give you some strong painkillers, charge you hundreds of dollars and tell you to go home, one of my roommates told me. And so went one of the largest understatements I’ve ever heard. After they checked us into a room, the nurses ran a few tests. They drew some blood, did some diagnostics, and arrived at a hunch. To confirm, they ran an ultrasound. 10 minutes later, my diagnosis was in. I had testicular torsion.

To reiterate, I had run around, played basketball, rode a bike, and drove a car with apparently twisted testicles. I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. This is what I get for making fun of Jimmy Carter. Karma sucks. I needed to have emergency surgery. For a while I was in shock. The pain had numbed. My testicle was dying. There was a good chance I would need to have it removed seeing as how by the time I could get into surgery, it would likely be outside the time window for saving it. For a guy, barring anything life threatening, this was about one of the worst diagnoses possible.

 

I had never been inside an ambulance before. Usually I was the guy on the road tailing the ambulance to cut right through the traffic. My uncle had left work to come with his family to be with me. My roommates were still by my side as I finally got admitted into the main hospital. I cried. I never cry. But right there, I cried. Why did this have to happen to me? For one of the few times in my life, I was at a loss for words. At about 10:30 PM, they finally started wheeling me towards the operating room. I was starting to come to grips with the reality of the situation. Sidebar, tell me again why they have gift shops near surgery areas?

My roommates and uncle walked all the way to the operating room with me. The anesthesiologist read out the morbid risk statements for anesthesia. Apparently it was a problem that I had eaten half a bag of corn chips. Who knew? The nurse took my vitals and reassured me. The surgeon went over the details of the procedure. My roommates and uncle hugged me as I was taken in. The nurses got the anesthesia started. The doctors got the instruments ready. I faded to sleep. The last thing I remember is fist-bumping the surgeon.

 

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Westside

The clock read 1 AM when I regained consciousness. I had a bunch of oxygen tubes running across my body, and my throat felt sore, probably from the oxygen tubes that were inside my body a few hours prior. The nurse told me that the surgery had gone well and that my genitals were all well and intact. Relief swept over me. I had made it. The doctor called it a minor miracle that they had rescued my testicles.

I talked to my uncle first, so that I could ask him how close my parents were to Houston. I assumed that was it. My uncle left, but then to my amazement, my roommates walked in. What the damn hell were they doing here at this hour? Turns out those two guys hadn’t left the hospital at all. They were determined not to leave at least until my parents arrived. My parents probably weren’t arriving until 4 in the morning. Heck, they hadn’t even slept. I then did the only logical thing. I asked them to play Kendrick Lamar for me. Of course I did.

As a quick recap, to that point, my roommates had dropped some important networking, no questions asked, drove me around for hours, argued with ER administrators on my behalf, and had stayed there for me even as I was in surgery. I would have been fine with them leaving after my uncle got there when I was in Kirby Methodist, still being diagnosed. They had work to do. They had other things to take care of. But they didn’t because they were lunatics. They had to be. My roommates stayed there till 4 until my parents arrived. And then they came back the next morning. Sidebar, they took as many latex gloves as they could find, turned them into balloons, and distributed them to the nurses. They were lunatics. But they were lunatics to whom I owe a great deal.

 

See, when I was growing up, I was one of the few people who said “friends and family,” not “family and friends.” The order there is worth noting. My parents and I rarely got along when I was young. It was always about my friends for me. Close friends were a necessity, more so than for most people. When I first moved here to the United States, I met a kid at school who asked me out of pity if I wanted to jump rope. Twelve years later, we’re basically brothers. He’s my best friend. At every turn in my life, I have formed close connections. It’s not an option for me; it’s a legitimate requirement.

When I got to college, I made a lot of friends. Some close, some not. It was through sheer luck that I met my roommates. I am on the leadership team for OwlSpark, Rice’s startup accelerator, and they happened to be working on the designs for a startup that they wanted to take through OwlSpark. I became friends with them through that application process. Through some stroke of brilliance and randomness, I asked them if they wanted to room together over the summer. I knew one of them wasn’t from Houston and would need housing. Sure, we all thought. This could be pretty fun. And oh man it was. The summer started off great. I had found two more close friends. However, I didn’t foresee how much I apparently meant to them, or how much they would come to mean to me.

 

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The wheelchair had a sound system.

When I realized after waking up from surgery that my roommates had been by my side the entire time, it hit me. I had found my “why.” And it was so simple. Yet it took me almost losing my testicles to figure it out. Why do I do what I do? Why do I want to succeed? I do it for my friends. I do it for those friends who were and are always there for me, helping me out in innumerable ways. I do it for the friends who constantly support me, believe in me, and help me reach my goals. I do it for the friends who will take me into their house at odd hours with no prior warning from my end, the friends who will drop everything, no questions asked, to rush to my aid.

My family was six hours away in New Orleans and didn’t get to Houston until 4 in the morning. It was all about friends. My uncle had rushed from work with his family and come to see me. He stayed until my parents came. Another one of my uncles also arrived soon after and stayed until my parents arrived. An uncle in Nevada who was a doctor had been on the phone with the surgeon the entire time. Now, when I say uncles, I don’t mean relatives, just friends. But this would be an incomplete paragraph without again mentioning my roommates who threw away so much of their time and sacrificed so much opportunity cost just to be with me the entire time.

 

Finding a “why” is hard. It’s hard earned, not simply discovered. Nobody wakes up one morning and just realizes it. It’s a culmination of experiences, a merger of many diverse roads taken. For me, my balls had to be at stake for me to figure it out. I have only really had to rehab for a month, and my recovery has gone much smoother than expected, but this experience will continue to hang over me as a sort of watershed moment. Finding a “why” is really important. When the going gets really tough, and everything falls down around you, there’s nothing to turn to as you’re stripped bare except for your principles, your core values, your “why.”

When I made my first shot at the court yesterday, it felt like everything was the same from when I had been in the same position a month ago. Except so much was different. I had learned so much about myself. Well one thing was the same. I still had two testicles. Take that Jimmy Carter.

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