Published on June 6th, 2015 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
STEVE BLACKMAN: ‘Taking Names and Taking on Life’
Editor / Transcribed by: [email protected]
A competitive bodybuilder, martial artist and professional wrestler, Steve Blackman is considered to be one of pro wrestling’s true tough guys. For good reason, too! He’s beaten a life-threatening bout of malaria, suicidal thoughts, and kicked many asses along the way. If these stories don’t make you shake in your boots in fear, we don’t know what will!
Blackman Discusses Catching Malaria, Almost Dying and the Longest Plane Ride of his Life
“I got down [to South Africa], and the day after I was there I started getting sicker. I just kept getting sicker. I was so dehydrated I couldn’t even breathe. Every ten minutes I was in the bathroom. I would chug waters, I would chug sodas, anything I could get my hands on, because every ten minutes I felt like I had sand in my mouth and I couldn’t breathe.
I went to the hospital and they kept me on an IV all night. We went through a few bags of IV’s and sent me back to the hotel. Six straight hours later I would be so dehydrated, I couldn’t breathe again and had to go back. This went on the whole week.
At this point in time, they were just flying out of Durban once a week as this was in ’89, so if I didn’t get out on the Thursday coming up, I would have been stuck there another week and I just knew I wouldn’t make it another week. When I arrived on the one Thursday, I weighed 267 pounds. When I got home seven days later, I was 232. When I got home, I drank and ate a lot of food the night before I went to bed and went to the doctor in the morning. So probably, I lost more than 35 pounds in 6 or 7 days. It was a nightmare.
One of my friends was Gary Albright, he passed away as well. I was in Durban and I was in the hospital and I said, “Gary, you have to get me out of here. If I stay another week, I’m not going to make it. I don’t want to have my family go halfway around the world to retrieve my body so I want to get the hell out of here.” So he scheduled one of his friends to pick me up.
The guy drove me to the airport. I had enough cash on me to buy a ticket from Durban to Johannesburg. So now at home I had my family buy me a ticket from Johannesburg all the way back home. You know, this was 21, 20 years ago and I didn’t have a bunch of cash on me. They were paying for everything but I had enough to cover the one ticket on the spur of the moment. So I got to Johannesburg and it came through fifteen minutes before the flight left. If it wouldn’t have come through, I would have been stuck there. I probably would have been there, because now I would have been in Johannesburg where I knew no one. So we fly and luckily I got on the plane there. And I was trying to keep from blacking out the whole time and I would keep a bag full of sodas and water, whatever I could find, because I just couldn’t even breathe.
From there, it was like a five hour flight to Kenya. We had a five hour layover in Kenya on the runway with the doors open and it was about 120 degrees. From there we flew nine hours to Amsterdam where I had a 12 hour layover. I got to Amsterdam and they didn’t even let me on the plane because I was so sick. I said, “Look, I don’t think I have anything contagious. It’s dysentery or malaria or something like that, but I don’t think it’s contagious. If I die, I’m going to die in the States. I made it this far, I’m going home.”
So anyway, I was laying on the floor at the airport for twelve hours and I would just crawl in the bathroom every ten minutes. One end or the other would be coming out. As soon as I would drink, I would go in again. It was just horrible.
From there, we flew to New York City, but on that flight from Amsterdam to New York, I blacked out a few times. I know that they called a doctor on the plane and he mixed up these packs for me, maybe blood sugar packs or something to keep reviving me, so to speak. I got to New York and they had some kid wheel me off in a wheel chair. Whatever money I had in my hand, I don’t have have any clue to this day what it was. I just gave it to him and said, “Just get me something to eat,” because I wanted to see if I can keep some food and water down in my own country. He came back with a sub and a bottle of water and it was the first time I ate and drank something and didn’t go to the bathroom. I’m like, I gotta stay down. I’m delirious on top of losing 35 pounds in 6 days. I haven’t slept now in days as I’ve been flying and all this trying to get home in 37 hours. So now we’re in New York and I have a five hour layover before I fly to Harrisburg. I didn’t care if I passed out there. I didn’t care if I went to the hospital there. I didn’t even pick my luggage up. I said, “Leave it. Just get me to my gate and let me go.” And I made it home.
I was pretty delirious, I couldn’t even remember my girlfriend’s name for the first three or four days. I went to the doctor and he said I probably had dysentery or probably had malaria from my symptoms because I was so bad.
After about two weeks at home, I started feeling a little better. Then I went down there and got shots of cortisone and with the cortisone, again, all of a sudden I was getting sicker and sicker. I was completely screwed up. Everything came alive. I had bronchitis every six weeks for three years. I was just constantly sick until they figured out I developed an infection in my intestines from all these antibiotics, dysentery and cortisone reaction and all of that stuff. About three years went by and I went to ten different doctors. I spent every penny I had on medical bills.
And then after all that, one doctor in Maryland finally figured out what it was. He said, ‘The problem is you’re going to have to take medicine for as long as you were sick,” because it was through the entire of my intestinal track. That’s two to two and half years on medicine. Then, one day after five and a half, six years, whatever it was, I woke up and it was like, ‘My God I can see clearly today! I can think clearly today!’ And then that was it. I spent ten minutes at the gym. The next day fifteen, and so on. And after about a year, I said, “I’m going back.” But, I never thought I would be going back after all these years. For a few years, I thought I was going to die every night I went to bed.”