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(I've Been Broken); I've Been Fixed: On Rocco

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A great Beulah song (their first two records, Handsome Western States and When Your Heartstrings Break, are two of my favourites of all time) provides our title for today, although I inverted the parenthesis because it seemed appropriate for today's story. 

This doesn't necessarily bear on the Jays, but it sounds like great news I wanted to share.  According to Rocco Baldelli's family, a recent visit to a clinic in Cleveland revealed that doctors had previously misdiagnosed Rocco.   Doctors had believed Baldelli had a rare mitochondrial disorder and his play last season was quite restricted due to severe fatigue.  I remember a story where Rocco said he would get winded just jogging out to and in from the outfield even if there were no plays for him to make in a given inning.  He deserves a lot of credit for pushing himself and getting back on the field to make a substantial contribution to the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays. 

Anyway, it appears now that Rocco might not have the mitochondrial disorder (which is apparently extremely dangerous and can be fatal) but rather has a channelopathy, which is a type of irregularity in the proteins that control the flow of charged particles (for example, sodium or potassium ions) across cell membranes.  Yes, I was a biochemistry major. 

Channelopathies can be progressive and fatal (cystic fibrosis is usually described as one) or non-progressive and treatable (recent neurology believes a migraine is one).  According to the above news report, Baldelli's is a non-progressive and highly treatable channelopathy, which is great news.  Not saying at all that this is what Rocco has (though it may be something similar), but an example of a Channelopathy that presents some similar symptoms is Myasthenia Gravis, whose very name means ("severe muscle fatigue").  It is a rare autoimmune disorder that may present itself at any time and is characterized by severe fatigue of muscles after any physical exertion, followed by improvement during periods of rest, and less severe forms are quite treatable with medication that regulates ion flow and gradient once diagnosed. 

Anyway, as a close family member of someone with an extremely rare congenital disease, it is not uncommon for the first diagnosis to be wrong.  Differential diagnoses are hard in general and doctors usually start with the more common diagnosis that fits the symptoms and then work their way down.  This could be awesome news for Rocco and as someone who's always been a fan, I could not be happier for him and his family. 

I do have to temper my enthusiasm, at least at this stage.  I need to point out that while the matters in the story are attributed to Rocco's family, there are no direct quotes, and why is the story in all-caps?  It's pretty vague and has not been confirmed by Rocco, so we can't really treat it as anything other than potentially great news until it can be confirmed.  On the other hand, Ken Bell would appear to be a reputable source as he is the sports director for Rhode Island's Channel 6 (an ABC affiliate).  I suspect we will know for sure today. 

[Note by hugo, 12/17/08 10:44 AM EST ] Update:  Another Rhode Island channel is now running with the story. 

[Note by hugo, 12/17/08 12:35 PM EST ] Update:  Rocco confirms!  Great news for Rocco.