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  • student at Fox Chapel High School played basketball and foottball in 2008-09

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Chapel big man returns after mystery ailment[]

By Bill Beckner Jr., VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH, January 9, 2009

Doctors still haven't diagnosed David Martin's bizarre condition.

They don't know what caused the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Fox Chapel basketball player to lose feeling in his tree-trunk legs last fall.

But Foxes coach Ben O'Connor can confirm one thing -- when his big man makes a promise, he keeps it.

Martin is back and providing an intimidating presence in the post, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game for Fox Chapel, one of several teams in contention in what appears to be a wide-open WPIAL Class AAAA.

But it wasn't until after a long recovery from the mystery ailment, once suggested to be a sort of viral disease, that Martin returned to form.

The gentle giant also missed time in football.

"The football coach (Bryan Deal) and myself went to see him in the hospital," O'Connor said. "Here's this giant kid in this little bed. He doesn't have feeling in his legs. He could have said, 'Why me?' But he looks around -- there were some kids in terrible shape -- and he says, 'I could be this kid, or I could be that kid. This happened to me for a reason. And I will be better because of it.' "

The affliction just showed up one day.

Last football season, Martin woke up the morning after a game -- a game where he doesn't remember getting hit awkwardly or anything out of the ordinary happening to his body.

"I was perfectly fine when I got up," he said. "Then, it happened all of the sudden. I went numb. It was like my legs were asleep."

Martin was in the hospital for three weeks. He rolled around in a wheelchair but remained optimistic that he would return to normal.

"Even though we didn't know what exactly it was, I knew I would get out of it," Martin said. "I had so many players and friends visiting me. That helped me pull through."

Martin said doctors tried steroids and other remedies to help him get the feeling back. But nothing worked.

Over time, and with rest, feeling returned in his legs, and Martin was once again up and about. He said he hasn't had leg issues since early last winter.

"Being sick, being down, made me want to work that much harder," Martin said.

Now, he's hoping to remain healthy for a full season, something he hasn't done in his prep career. Run-ins with mononucleosis, pneumonia and the removal of his appendix shortened past seasons.

"Fingers crossed," O'Connor said. "He is such a light-hearted, good kid. He just goes with the flow."

O'Connor said Martin, who moved to Fox Chapel from the West Greene School District before the start of high school, is one of his most committed players.

"He is chiseled, and he runs well," O'Connor said. "He has spent a lot of time in the weightroom, getting back in shape."

Martin's grandfather also served as motivation.

As Martin said, Eugene Becker, now 89 and in a veterans' home, "has had strokes and been in wars. But if he can do that, I can come back, too."

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