I love rugby. The discipline and protocol I learned from playing the hooligans game for gentleman, I use everyday in my own life. I love the humility it teaches, the work ethic, and the grit you build by playing it. Unlike it’s cousin, American football, there’s no time for bum pats or high fives every time you do anything of minor importance. Just smashed someone into next Tuesday? Good for you. Get your ass up and go do it again and again. And unlike it’s older brother, soccer, where discipline is more of an idea than a fact, and despite being a non contact game, soccer players seem to spend more time on the ground than rugby players.
Enter Pat Dunkley: 38 caps (games) for team Canada Rugby, fitness junky, flesh-eating disease survivor, with cauliflower ears not even a mother could love. The human embodiment of Rugby.
I first met “Dunks” in grade 12 as a high school student in Victoria; he helped coach my senior rugby high school team to their 3rd BC championship in 4 years. The archetypal tough guy, he would cycle across town without breaking a sweat to coach our practice, then back across town to his own brutal 2 hour practice, capped of with another 30 minutes on the bike home.
Dunkley’s rugby career actually started with hockey and wrestling, but when his family moved to Victoria, B.C. when he was 16, he soon discovered that rugby is king. Pat enrolled at Esquimalt High, close to the dockyards. Esquimalt prides itself on its rugby program, it is there he met physical education teacher and coach of the club with the most B.C. provincial titles (James Bay Athletics Association), Pete “ThreePete” Rushton.
Pat decided to give the sport a try and very quickly his talent shone through, soon playing U19 for B.C. After high school his rugby career began as many young athletes’ do: trying to balance the dream and reality. Rugby was interrupted by stints as a construction worker, but he continued to train hard throughout, eventually landing a place on the now defunct Pacific pride team, Canada’s U23 squad. He earned his first international cap at 25 against Japan in 1998. But when on tour in 2000, Dunks was faced with his most intense battle not just of his career, but his life.
Kaevon (interviewer): So, what happened?
Dunkley: We were playing in the, I think it was called the Epsom Cup still and there was Western Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and USA, Canada.
I: When was this?
D: That was in 2000. There were a bunch of teams at the same time that were in Western Samoa, because Fiji was having a coup. So, we were supposed to go to Western Samoa and Fiji, but we ended up playing all our games in Western Samoa. In our last game there we were playing against Fiji and I got stomped on my calf and ended up with a bit of a cut. It wasn’t major, it didn’t need to be stitched or anything, then we left probably about four or five hours after the game. Then it was a long travel back, about 42 hours,New Zealand to Victoria. So when I got back from that I was obviously tired from lots of travel. I got real ill during the night, I was vomiting. My leg was getting quite a bit sore as each minute passed. I pretty much laid in bed all day, and I had a roommate at the time and she was concerned with how sick I was. My temperature was quite high and she kept bugging me, – “We need to get you to the hospital, get to the doctor so you can get checked out” – so I finally went to the hospital and they took a blood test. My white blood cell count was high so they did more tests; I ended up in surgery very soon after. I had a procedure done called a tissue defragment, basically they remove all the skin and tissue away from the muscle.
Pat’s reaction to the diagnosis was recorded by his team doctor:
““Pat, I’m afraid you have necrotizing fasciitis,” to which he responded in the atypical Canadian fashion. “Eh?”
Further clarifying the severity of the condition, one in which 1 in 4 people infected die, while many of those who do survive lose a limb, he replied “So that’s it, eh? What’s for lunch?”
I: So, they figured out what it was?
D: Oh yeah, I had the one surgery right away, then I had a second surgery where they took some more tissue that they figured still had some of the flesh-eating disease. Then I had a couple of surgeries after that where they started to close things up; the third surgery they started to close both areas where they had removed the tissue and then the last surgery they completely closed the one spot they were able to. They had to do a skin graft and took some skin from my right thigh and put it on the outside of my knee.
The surgery was a literally a race between one of the fastest spreading diseases known to man which can can cause death within 18 hours, and Dr. Yoneda’s rapid removal of dead tissue and skin.
I: That’s terrifying.
Dunkley: Yeah, and after that it was just basically baby steps to get back. It’s interesting, right from the start the orthopaedic surgeon, he set up this little pull up bar above my bed and he said “I know you are feeling awful, but the more you can exercise while you are laying here, the better.” So I would do as many pull ups as I could throughout the day, then after all the surgeries I just continued. A few days before I got out of the hospital they started me on a 2 x 30 second walks and then when I got out of the hospital I gradually increased it. 2 x 30 second, then 3 x 30 second walks and then the next day do 3 x 40 second walks and so forth. As soon as I got out of the hospital I went straight into the weight room for my upper body and in between sets just lay with my leg up; I was really diligent about making sure that I elevated it after doing anything.
Interviewer: All told, how long were you in the hospital for?
Dunkley: A couple days shy of three weeks.
Interviewer: So this is in 2000; you get out and you start this walking program, how long before you start on the field again?
Dunkley: I played five months after my first surgery.
Interviewer: Then were you right back on the National squad?
Dunkley: I was back on the National team against Tonga in 2001 in May.
Interviewer: So, the chunk they took out of your leg, was it a big hunk of muscle or just a couple centimetres?
Dunkley: No, it was pretty big, both spots that they took stuff out of, but they didn’t remove any muscle – it was all getting rid of tissue and skin and fat. The procedure was called a tissue defragment, so it’s basically just flaying all the skin and tissue of of the muscle.
Interviewer: So, did you re-watch the tape and see who it was who stomped you?
Dunkley: Haha oh, I know who it was, I played against him in Wales. I don’t blame him, I mean, it’s part of the game.
Before, after and through his fight against the disease that takes 1 in 4 of those infected to the grave, Pat Dunkley learned the true value of training hard and effectively, as well as taking care of his body. As a result of his own spartan like regiment, Dunkley crafted a system called Bays Fit, used to introduce players new to strength and conditioning into a program. It’s geared towards rugby players, but don’t think you have to play to try it out; with elements of Olympic lifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, calisthenics and running, Bays Fit sculpts versatile athletes. Below, we’ve given you a sneak peak at Bays fit. The workout is designed to emulate the variation and intensity of match day, to get off season players ready for Saturday games.
The Blue Flu
1. Shuttle Run 10m Forward and Backwards
2.Push Press- 65lbs
3.Sumo Deadlift Hi-pull- 65lbs
5. Wallball– 20lbs
3 cycles of 1 minute per exercise with a one minute rest between cycles.
What it means to be a Bay