Matt Dernlan's Perseverance

Matt Dernlan coaching Binghamton University (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo;

The sport of wrestling and Rudis are synonymous; The two go together like peanut butter and jelly, or wrestlers and perseverance. Perseverance; it's a word that every wrestler doesn't just cling to, but one that defines their very character, a word engrained in the very fiber of their being. Think I'm being dramatic - you must not be a wrestler.

According to Oxford Language, to persevere means, "to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success." Matt Dernlan, a fellow wrestler, coach, role model, father, husband and friend to many, is doing exactly that - he is persevering.

When what began as a fever and chills, turned into a loss of speech and a change in behavior was quickly accompanied by severe pain in his chest and back, Matt's wife ,Carie, the mother of their 3 beautiful children, knew it was time to head to the ER. After being transported to a brain and spine unit, the medical team discovered 15-20 brain lesions on Matt's brain and diagnosed him with blood sepsis. A few days later, Matt lost mobility of his right leg. As he continued to battle the intensifying pain in his upper back and chest, Matt soon realized it was no longer just his right leg that he lacked feeling in, but both legs became completely immobile and numb.

Thankfully, according to Matt, "A very insistent and intuitive Infectious Disease Doctor fast-tracked him to the head of the line for a scan of his entire spine." Less than 24 hours after his scans, Matt was rushed off to have a very critical surgery - one that would hopefully restore feeling in his legs and his hands, which at that point had also become immobile. Matt's surgery involved cutting open his back to gain access to his spinal cord, cutting it in two and flushing out all of the infection. A sample of that fluid would later reveal that the bacteria streptococcus was the cause of his severe pain and illness. It was an illness so rare the hospital informed the Dernlan's Matt's case was one of 200 cases reported in the last 100 years!

While under close watch in the ICU, Matt's chest pain continued to intensify; this led to more scans. An abscess was found behind his heart which meant another surgery. Because of the location of the abscess and the procedure the doctors performed, Matt was put on a feeding tube. Despite facing and overcoming multiple medical anomalies, Matt still wasn't in the clear; After 7 days in the ICU, Matt was taken back to OSU's Brain and Spine unit where he stayed for 13 days with no motor function below his chest.

On October 14th, Matt was transferred to Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital, where he participated in 3-4 hours of rehabilitation and therapy a day and had round-the-clock medical care. The medical costs began to pile up, but Matt wasn't finished yet, and he's not finished now either. After months of living in a hospital, away from his children and his wife, on November 19th, Matt was finally released to be with his family and continue his fight to overcome this very rare disease and difficult recovery. In the weeks since, Matt has focused on becoming independent again, regaining his strength both physically and mentally, and regaining motor function in both of his legs.

Matt was told it may take months to a year before doctors will know just how much of a recovery he will make, yet, he continues to push himself forward and makes gains every day. He is committed to the best recovery he can achieve. His family and friends have come together to create a GoFundMe to help mitigate the costs of his medical care and continued rehabilitation.

Matt Dernlan is well known in the wrestling community for many reasons - He was a great coach, acting as an assistant at Penn State and successful head coach at both Clarion and Binghamton before he joined Rudis as the Chief of Staff. You may have also heard him on the Rudis Wrestling Podcast with co-host Jason Bryant. Matt has long been a voice for wrestlers everywhere, helping them to perfect the craft in his 7+ years of coaching D1 athletes, and continuing to grow the sport and contribute to the wrestling community on and off the air. While he typically was the one to rally around his athletes, it is now our turn to rally around Matt and his beautiful family. All donations made to his GoFundMe will be used to help assist with medical bills and purchase items needed to make his home wheelchair accessible.

While I recognize making a monetary donation is not always feasible, I do ask that you keep Matt and his family in your thoughts and prayers. I know first hand the adjustment from hospital to home under new and ever-changing circumstances, is a difficult one, and at times completely overwhelming. However, our family is also well aware of the power of prayer and community. When the wrestling community came together to help support my husband, Richard Perry, it was the messages of encouragement, the prayers, the support that made those dark days, the difficult ones that seemed never-ending, somehow better. It was because of this community we kept fighting when we felt we had no more fight to give. I am praying that Matt and his family, his children, who will watch their father overcome some of the most difficult of life's obstacles, are reminded that they are never alone because of the support and love the wrestling community will show them. I know this community is a special one, it's a tight knit "we got your back" kind of family, let's remind the Dernlan's just how much support they have.

Again, this is the link to Matt's GoFundMe page.


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Teamperry (1) about 9 months ago
Our family is praying for your healing, your restoration and Gods great peace to consume your entire family as you travel the road to recovery!