Rodney Bailey

In April of 2014, I left Columbus, OH, to coach the Defensive Line at Clearwater Countryside High School Football team. I was told we had an excellent chance to be State Champions. Eric Schmitz and I met way back at St. Edward High in 1993. While coaching in 2016, testing my brain with the NFL, I learned I developed CTE and Pre Parkinson's from my playing career. My only thought was, "Cool, I'll just drink this thing away. I'll escape."

Upon retiring from the NFL in 2008, I experienced Tinnitus. It included loud snoring, stopping breathing in my sleep, waking up every morning in a cold sweat just from the neck up, sleeping until 2 pm or longer, and blacking out and coming to seconds after being unconscious (Vasovagal syncope). I was growing more and more incorrigible, lead to a massive weight gain of over 100lbs quickly. I was 470lbs. I was unaware that I had sleep apnea, asthma until after I found out I had CTE in 2016.

Jerry Wunsch, an NFL comrade, a coaching contemporary of mine in Tampa Bay, and classmate at Wharton School of Business Executive MBA program in 2008, told me the first thing I needed to do was call Dr. Brent Agin. Jenny and I met with Dr. Brent, who was a pleasure to meet. The doctor was totally stunned that I had never had any post-career treatment of any kind. We put together a plan that would change my life.

At that time, I'm very grateful for meeting Dr. Agin. We were getting off to a great start. While testing my brain again in 2017, I lost consciousness in front of my wife and daughter. Again, for about the 60th time, most episodes were in private. So my wife called the NFL Doctors that we had just seen to tell them about my spell. They flew us back to Atlanta, put me on a tilt table test for 45 minutes, took my blood pressure every 15 minutes, hoping to induce a 400-pound man to pass out, but they were not successful.

We returned home, put on our thinking caps, I started learning more about cannabis's effect on the brain with CTE and leading me to get my Medical Cannabis card in the state of Florida in 2017, becoming one of the first 20,000 people in the state to get it. That helped calm a lot of inflammation in my brain and body. But, I passed out two more times, I believe, before deciding to get a cat scan on my midsection. I was scared. They found an abdominal hernia. The specialist told me I didn't need surgery as long as I did not have pain. And to avoid lifting weights because it could hurt me then. I was told to concentrate on strengthening the muscles of my abdominal wall around the hernia. So I took this literal at over 400 pounds.

On August 1, 2017, I officially began my yoga journey, which has been my fitness foundation every day for over three years and counting. On this self-taught yoga journey, I was encouraged by friends to lead many yoga classes in the park, which evolved into me teaching a one-hour class on Wednesdays at Gypsea & Co., a yoga studio in Tarpon Springs in 2019. I mentioned at the top as my body was getting healthier, I was hospitalized in November 2018, where I learned after a five-day stay, I had developed exercise-induced asthma. I take Symbicort and use a nebulizer daily for breathing treatments. I have taught myself to train through this, and I finally received the award of my CPAP through the double-secret handshake I had to do in 2019 to get it through my union. I have been sleeping with REM sleep for just a little over two years after 39 years with untreated sleep apnea. Notably, I've torn both Achilles, the left in 2004 repaired at Mass General in Boston, MA. Most recently tore my right Achilles in August 2019, and I did all the rehab naturally, on my own. No surgery, just yoga, meditation, homeostasis, and cannabis.

This journey of restoration is just beginning. On October 10, 2020, with our daughter Angelina as our witness, I married my best friend Jennifer Bailey on Madeira Beach. Jenny is my rock. All these years, she has put me, my brain, and overall health ahead of so many important things. Jenny did not sleep for over three years through the night to make sure I did not stop breathing. I cherish Jenny and Angelina and the life we are building together.