Fullback Steven Beitashour knew something was very wrong when he couldn't sleep following Toronto FC's victory over Montreal in the Canadian Championship final.
Lying in bed. Sitting on the couch. The pain was too much no matter what position he tried in the wake of a violent collision with Impact defender Kyle Fisher just before halftime June 27.
"I didn't get one second of sleep that night," Beitashour said in an interview Thursday.
The morning after the game, Beitashour went in early to the TFC training centre where team officials immediately ordered him to the emergency room. Amazingly he drove himself the 17.5 kilometres to Mount Sinai Hospital.
"I knew it was bad because every bump in the road, it felt like I was being stabbed in my stomach," he recalled. "It was extremely painful just driving in. Even driving to the hospital, I got nauseous and ended up vomiting. So I know it was pretty serious when that happened."
The 30-year-old Beitashour, who finished out the game against Montreal, is one tough hombre.
"I figure I can (finish) the game, I can drive myself," he said with a laugh.
At the hospital, after a bevy of tests and consultations with doctors, he was diagnosed with a lacerated pancreas — an injury more often seen in car crashes or stabbings. The laceration resulted in toxins excreting into his body.
The pancreas is a long flattened gland located deep in the abdomen. It produces enzymes to help with food digestion and regulates blood sugar.
It was such an unusual sports injury that doctors jokingly referred to him as "patient zero."
"They don't see it in any other sport," Beitashour said. "It's such an uncommon injury because the pancreas is so far back. There's other things that can get damaged before that. So the fact that I didn't have broken ribs and that nothing else was damaged, it's kind of crazy to think."
Like a sports highlights show, the doctors went to the video to see what happened.
"They were pretty shocked I finished the game, to say the least," Beitashour said.
There were some scary moments for both Beitashour and his wife as the doctors worked their way from discussing taking out part of his pancreas and spleen out through to the eventual diagnosis.
He had surgery that night and remains full of gratitude for the medical team that worked on him.
He was in hospital for six days and still has tubes in his side to help drain the wound.
"We're still in the beginning steps. We're just trying to see if it'll heal on its own and we're kind of going day to day."
The tubes are checked every other day and he is slated to see his doctor on Monday, when the tubes could be removed if the wound is determined to have drained completely.
The good news is Beitashour is young and in peak physical condition. Still, there is no timeline on his return to action.
"Hopefully I'll be back on the field shortly, but right now my main concern is just for my pancreas to heal," he said.
Beitashour was hurt in first-half stoppage time when Fisher mistimed a challenge from distance and thudded into him.
"It hurt," Beitashour said. "I couldn't breathe, that was the scary part."
The scare dissipated slightly when he got his breath back but he knew it was not the ordinary having the wind knocked out of you. The trainers looked him over and Beitashour said everything checked out.
"I was like 'OK I can play. it's a little bit painful but it's nothing too crazy."'
During halftime, he was examined further as his teammates met with the coaches
"They don't have X-ray vision, they don't have MRI-vision," Beitashour said of the team's training and medical staff. "They can't see inside my stomach to know that anything serious is up. I don't blame them at all. There's no way of knowing.
"I know people gave them a little bit of flak for putting me back it in but it's their judgment and my judgment together. Physically nothing was broken ... Obviously I had discomfort but knowing that nothing was broken, I thought I could get through (the game)."
Adrenalin kicked in and he finished the championship match. And when Sebastian Giovinco scored the winning goal in stoppage time, Beitashour jumped over the advertising boarding like a champion hurdler to celebrate with teammates and fans.
Fisher, who was yellow-carded for the collision, sought out Beitashour immediately after the game to apologize and to see he was OK. The Impact player contacted him again via text once he found out about the surgery.
"I appreciated that, that he did reach out," said Beitashour.
Beitashour, a California native who plays internationally for Iran where is parents were born, has been a fixture at right fullback/wingback since joining Toronto from Vancouver prior to the 2016 season.
Rookie Oyvind Alseth started the last two games in Beitashour's absence, garnering generally positive reviews in his MLS debut.
Toronto signed 26-year-old Liechtenstein international Nicolas Hasler on Thursday to fill the gap at right back. Brazilian under-20 fullback Raul is on trial with the team.