MISSOULA – Last summer MTN Sports talked to Jason DiMatteo just months after complications from a liver procedure left him in a coma for 19 days. Now as he closes in on perhaps his final surgeries, the Missoula Bruins’ owner works closer and closer to a full recovery.
DiMatteo is starting to look and feel more and more like his old self, but the 43-year-old still hides the scars of a life-threatening ordeal.
“The last year and four months I’ve gone without abs, no abdominal muscles,” said DiMatteo. “So I use my back for everything. It’s amazing how you appreciate having abs even if they weren’t strong abs.”
DiMatteo still has a wound on his stomach, a remnant from months and months of treatment. Even though he lost up to 70 pounds off his 200-pound frame, the life-long hockey player and fan said his sport taught him to never give up. But the father of five now realizes how much his condition scared those who care for him.
“I never saw myself as everybody else saw me,” said DiMatteo. “You always think you’re healthy and you’re going to make it through it. But now that I’m healthier, a lot of my friends and family have said, ‘You really looked like we weren’t sure if you were going to make it.’ My little baby, my 3-year old, he always touches my belly, my wound and says, ‘Daddy, your belly is hurt, but it’s going to be OK.’”
The DiMatteo family received help from more than just their closest relatives and friends. A www.gofundme.com page set up for the family collected more than $33,000, with many of the donations coming from members of the Missoula hockey community that Jason said he barely knew. His bosses at Bretz RV matched the amount raised and held his job for when he was able to come back to work.
DiMatteo has jumped back into work and is excited about the upcoming season for his Bruins, but a terrifying year has given Jason new perspective.
“The little things that have bothered me aren’t a big deal,” said DiMatteo. “Because you’re grateful you’re not in a hospital staring at a wall every day.”
DiMatteo leaves for Denver this week for what he hopes will be his final hospital stay. He has two surgeries scheduled to repair his bile ducts and another that will close his wound and reconstruct his abdominal muscles.