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This article was published 3/3/2020 (233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When news broke back in October that veteran Jets centre Mark Letestu had been diagnosed with a heart virus called myocarditis, nobody was as surprised as he was.
The condition meant the 35-year-old Letestu, who signed a one-year, two-way deal worth US$700,000 in the off-season, would have to be shut down for approximately six months. The Elk Point, Alta., native only got to play seven games before the virus put a halt to his season.
"Honestly, I had no symptoms and that’s probably the hardest part to explain to people when they ask ‘How are you feeling?’ I didn’t have to change anything. I was just lucky enough that we do some of the screening in the pre-season. Some abnormalities showed up in the screening and one after another, it led to what was going on," said Letestu after Tuesday morning’s game-day skate, which was his first practice back as a full participant.
“Honestly, I had no symptoms and that’s probably the hardest part to explain to people when they ask ‘How are you feeling?’” – Mark Letestu
"But I didn’t feel any chest tightness or any shortness of breath or anything like that. It was one of those things where thankfully, we have the physicals that we do or this could go on for an unspecified amount of time."
After an MRI and some additional tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., it was confirmed Letestu had myocarditis. The condition is an inflammation of the heart muscle, reducing the heart’s ability to pump while also causing abnormal heart rhythms.
"I certainly wasn’t going to WebMD it. Of course, when you get that kind of diagnosis, you want to see what happened and if it was preventative," Letestu said. "But, it sounds like it’s something that’s fairly common and a lot of people would have it. But it clears up on its own because (people) aren’t at the upper ends of their heart rate like I am.
Last Thursday, Letestu got the news from the Mayo Clinc that there was no more inflammation and he was able to resume hockey activities with no restrictions. He was on the ice on Monday in a yellow non-contact jersey.
“Sometimes you take it for granted. But being away and watching the guys on TV, you miss being a part of it. Just getting clean bill of health, professionally it’s great, but even personally, it’s even better. You don’t have to worry about stressing yourself (about) some sort of time bomb going off.” – Mark Letestu
"I was happy for it, obviously. When you get time away from three or four months, you realize how much you love it," said Letestu, who’s played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers in his 11-year NHL career.
"Sometimes you take it for granted. But being away and watching the guys on TV, you miss being a part of it. Just getting clean bill of health, professionally it’s great, but even personally, it’s even better. You don’t have to worry about stressing yourself (about) some sort of time bomb going off."
However, Letestu still has a long way to go if he’s going to return to game action this season, or ever, at the NHL level. After Monday’s ice session, Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Letestu’s conditioning is at Stage 1 and they won’t be rushing him back into the lineup.
"Thirty minutes yesterday felt like training camp for him," Maurice said. "So, it’s going to be a while before he’s back to being a player."
“Thirty minutes yesterday felt like training camp for him. So, it’s going to be a while before he’s back to being a player.” – Coach Paul Maurice
While Letestu would like to get back out there as soon as possible, he’s realistic about the situation.
"That’s my main focus, to get to be an option again for the coaching staff, if they need it. Going out there before you’re back in shape, you’re just cheating the guys in here. They worked hard to get into this position. I don’t want to be out there with a half tank of guys. I want to be able to help. Until then, I’ll just keep working at it."
Letestu had a lot of time to ponder things these past couple of months. He was asked if there was ever a moment where he thought he wouldn’t be able to return.
"You certainly wonder about it," he admitted.
"But I wasn’t trying to be too definitive until I had the test. Once I got that clean bill of health, it gives me options. I get the chance to come back and see if I still love it because the work and the hard stuff I’m going to go through here is going to test that. We’ll get to really see how much I enjoy being a hockey player."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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