Flyers forward Tom Sestito enjoyed his time playing in England during the lockout.
Except, you know, for the inedible food... and the fact that he came down with a case of the mumps virus.
“They did the blood work and I ended up with a disease from the 1930’s. I felt like I was on the Oregon Trail,” Sestito said, laughing it off on Friday. “Turns out, a teammate’s wife had it. I was already back in the U.S. for 6 days. I woke up one morning, my glands were all swollen, and I looked like ‘Hitch.’”
Hitch, Sestito later clarified, is referring to Will Smith's character in the movie "Hitch," in which his face balloons after an allergic reaction -- and not former Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock, who coach Sestito in Columbus.
The mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967. In the U.S., an average of 265 cases of the mumps are diagnosed each year - and it usually affects children. Much like the chicken pox, it can be tougher to deal with as an adult.
“I got to the emergency room here and they asked me if I was born in the United States,” said Sestito, who was born and raised in Rome, N.Y. “I had gotten vaccinated for it, just like everyone else for school, but I still ended up with it. Even (Flyers’) Dr. Dorshimer, it was his first case of the mumps.”
No time is a good time for the mumps. For Sestito, the timing was even worse. He really actually did enjoy his time in the U.K., where he was a rock star with the EIHL's Sheffield Steelers. He enjoyed his teammates and the organization treated him well. And he played well, collecting 19 points in 17 games before returning in early December. But any work that Sestito did to position himself for the end of the lockout was wiped out; he was bedridden for almost an entire month.
“All gone,” Sestito said. “Just my luck. I lost a lot of weight. It was very painful, some days I couldn’t move. A lot of what I lost was muscle, so I can get that back.”
Sestito, 25, played 14 games with the Flyers last season. He’s a beast of a man - checking in at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds - and he’s competing with Scott Laughton, Eric Wellwood, Tye McGinn and Zac Rinaldo for the two final spots on the roster when training camp opens on Sunday.
There is no treatment for the mumps, other than a medical steroid to help soothe the swelling. The virus has to run its course - and it never totally leaves your body.
“I still don’t feel totally right, but you’re only contagious for 12 days. We’re well past that,” Sestito said. “I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice. I’m ready to get back into things. Safe to say, though, that I'm not going to be spending my vacation dollars to go back to England.”
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