Open Letter : when my scholarship was taken away from me
My name is Aleksander Bogoevski, and I am a senior majoring in Business Administration with a specialization in Finance, and I also represent my college in the SGA Senate. Since the age of seven, I have been actively playing soccer for a number of teams in Spain, Macedonia, Greece, and most recently the United States. Upon graduation from high school, my passion for soccer led me to seek opportunities to continue playing on the collegiate level, and I was subsequently recruited by the IIT men's soccer team to come to Chicago and play while getting my degree.
During the past summer, the coach of the men’s soccer team, Mr. David Strother, gave each of us a workout schedule we had to follow, and requested us to send him the times for our runs. During this period, I was injured after fainting twice doing what he expected of us. I had to pay the medical expenses since I was not covered by the athletic insurance; the athletic department did not want to take any responsibility for what happened to me while I was getting ready for the season.
After the two times that I fainted during my pre-season running, the coach sent me to the team’s doctors who determined that I could still play, and I was told to continue weightlifting in August during pre-season. Due to the lack of concern by the medical staff at IIT, my life was now literally endangered. Since then, neither the coach nor any other professional IIT staff have expressed interest in following my health situation. I also decided to ask the team doctors for a written letter saying that I could train, which they did not provide me with; they instead sent me to Mercy Hospital for further examinations because I insisted that this situation should be cleared before I started training normally. In hindsight, this was probably the best thing the team has done for me this past year.
From then on, none of the doctors in our university told me what to do - which meant that I had to figure out my own way and contact doctors from my home country, Macedonia. I contacted a doctor in Macedonia who knows me well, having examined my condition after what happened to me during July and August. He strictly decided that I should not do any physical activity until an electrophysiology study had been done and he was able to clear me; so that is what I did. After some tests were done at Mercy Hospital, a clear diagnosis was not made, and I insisted on further tests. The doctors there then decided to send me to Dr. Burke, of the University of Chicago Hospital. After some tests by Dr. Burke, he too told me that I should cease all physical activities since he saw my situation as life threatening. On the 10th of November, Dr. Burke conducted an electrophysiology study and a heart biopsy together with an MRI.
A large number of documents and results were given to the coach and the athletic department in order for them to better understand my situation and follow-up as they deemed fit. During the season, due to the coach's directive, I attended every practice, home game, and even some away matches in order not to create any problems within the team.
After the end of the first semester, I went to my country to see Dr. Handziski, a specialist in sports medicine as a member of the Macedonian National Soccer Team, which I was a member of. He has known my situation and has been following me for years, thus, he was my best option. When Dr. Handziski was provided with my results from the tests made in the USA, he decided to prohibit me from any stressful activity so as not to put me in danger. On the 16th of January 2012, after coming back from Macedonia, I had to undergo a second MRI at the University of Chicago.
The biopsy I made during the prior semester, which I mentioned previously, was sent to Boston for coloring; the results have not arrived yet, but hopefully they will soon. Depending on the results from the biopsy, Dr. Burke mentioned to me personally that he might have to urgently make another intervention in my heart, which would entail placing a defibrillator in order to reduce any life-threatening risk.
My situation is not a muscle problem or an ankle strain, but a more serious problem than Mr. Strother and the medical staff at the athletic department thought and continue to believe. By the suggestion of my doctors, I should not attend any training or match for physical and psychological reasons that can further harm my health.
In February, my coach called me for a meeting, not to ask me about my situation but to tell me that I must attend all trainings for the Spring Semester of 2012. This was when I let him know that this would not be possible as per my doctors' suggestion. Everything I was doing was by the decision of my doctors, and I was greatly disappointed that my coach made the decision to cancel my scholarship for this Spring Semester without a consultation with any doctor or with the rest of this institution.
Because I have been at this university for three years now, I know the general practice has been for players not to attend the last semester before graduation, and this year has shown consistency since a few players have not been attending while still not undergoing any significant problems such as mine. Have their scholarships also been cancelled? I am sick while they are healthy, but are we in the same position?
Throughout the past three years, as a student-athlete, I have genuinely put my heart and soul into everything I did in order to best represent IIT, not only athletically, but also through my involvement in the Student Government Association and International Students Association, among other things, and even by whole-heartedly participating in the recent School Spirit Day. In return, I feel disappointed by the lack of guidance provided to me by the athletic department, Office of the Dean (to whom this letter was originally addressed), and the athletic medical staff, along with the amount of apathy the department has expressed toward my personal well being, especially in regards to this life- threatening situation. The fact that I represent an international soccer team has been completely ignored.
From all of this, I hope that in the future, no IIT student-athlete is subjected to such an immensely painful experience. That remains one of my main objectives in writing this letter. With a month left to graduate, I am currently left with a huge negative financial balance, repeated refusals to acknowledge my international soccer team's medical adviser, and most importantly, bitter memories of uncooperation and apathy which have merely blemished my positive experience of representing this university for the past three and a half years.