Sishc began diligently doing the Edgelow exercises. "Some days I'd wake up and I'd feel fine," he said. "Others, I literally couldn't lift my wrist to put on my clothing. I remember thinking, 'Am I ever going to be normal again? Am I going to be able to dive?' And I though about my future — I want to be a dentist — and I knew if this didn't get better, that would end that pathway in my life."
"When I met him, I felt he was a set-up for TOS because of his years of diving and cross training with swimming and weights," Lee said. "I was also struck by his perseverance. I could tell he was somebody who would follow our instructions."
The therapy did help — until it didn't. That was exactly what Lee was expecting in the high-performing athlete. Lee went in and removed Sishc's first rib. The surgery was followed by months of rest for Sishc's arm, physical therapy and a gradual return to his sport. "It was a lot easier than I expected it to be," Sishc said. By the time he was given the go-ahead to dive again, he'd been out of the water for six months. "Diving is not a sport where being out for six months, you're going to get back in right away. I felt like a new diver again." He had shown up for all the team practices in that six months, however, supported by his coaches who wanted him to still feel part of the team. "It was torture," Sishc said, "because all I wanted to do was get in and dive."
Finally, he was allowed to train again. "We took it very slow," Sishc said, "and my first meets were a little rough. For a year, I struggled with getting strong and getting everything back to where it was. I didn't expect to make the NCAA championships."
But his old form came back. In January 2012, as a Stanford senior, he helped his team win the annual Stanford Diving Invitational — taking the top spot in five of six dives he made from the competition's highest platform, the 10-meter.
Last March, as a Stanford graduate student in psychology, Sishc qualified for the NCAA national diving championships, winning a chance to compete against the nation's very best divers. "I remember standing up on the platform for my last dive, thinking not only was this the last dive of my career but also what it took for me to get to this point. I honestly did not think I was going to get back up there. So it was a great feeling to say that I did it," Sishc said. "I also knew that it wouldn't have been possible without the medical team here at Stanford, especially Dr. Lee."
And, as Sishc modestly put it, "it ended well." He made the top group of finishers in the 3-meter springboard, as well as in the 10-meter platform he once thought he'd never see again, to become a collegiate Division 1 All-American in two events. This fall, he's applying to dental school.
By Sara Wykes