BROSSARD, Que.,–You can imagine how concerned Kirk Muller was when a mysterious condition left him incapable of doing routine things around his house without feeling dizzy.
We’re talking about a guy who scored 357 goals and 959 points in 1349 NHL games. A Stanley Cup winner who has kept himself in playing shape since retiring in 2003.
But it was almost exactly a year ago that the 52-year-old assistant coach of the Montreal Canadiens fell rather ill and couldn’t figure out what was preventing him from getting back to feeling like his regular self.
“I had the flu at first in July [of 2017] and then I just couldn’t do anything,” Muller told Sportsnet on Thursday. “I had no energy and then I just started to lose all my muscle mass. I couldn’t pick up anything off the ground without getting dizzy. I couldn’t even walk up a hill. I felt like I was 90. It’s hard to explain, but I couldn’t feel my legs. Physically I just felt like I was totally out of it. It was brutal.”
So Muller made his way to Montreal and met with Canadiens doctors to get to the root of the issue. It was only after tests came back completely normal that the doctors were able to turn their attention elsewhere and figure out that Muller had contracted Lyme disease.
The illness, which is spread by infected ticks, can have devastating consequences if left untreated. The symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches and neck stiffness and heart palpitations.
Muller, who spends his off-seasons in a heavily-wooded area in Ontario, knows he’s very fortunate the disease didn’t affect him as severely as it could have.
“I think what happens sometimes is if something else had of come up, they’d have treated me for that and maybe missed this. But the tests came back all good, and I was like, ‘Something is wrong with me, I could just barely drive up here,’” said Muller after noting there were no clear signs he had been bitten by a tick.
He began treatment in August and only began to feel as though his energy was returning in February.
“All of last summer I was beat,” Muller said. “I’d get up to go get something in the fridge and just be dizzy. It as an awful mess. I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to start camp last year. Then all of the sudden we found it, they gave me the medication and snap—I was better. Still, I’d go straight home after practice to sleep. I couldn’t work out at all until I started to feel better.”
Muller isn’t completely free and clear of the disease, but the good news is he hasn’t had symptoms since last winter and hasn’t had to take medication since then, either.
While Muller’s focus is currently on Canadiens camp and the season that lies ahead, he said that he’d like to one day lend his voice and his public status to the cause.
“It’s amazing how big it’s gotten. My cousin got it, my dog got it, and birds carry it to our area when they migrate over the Great Lakes,” said Muller. “It’s major. The one thing is there’s so many different scenarios. Some people are permanently affected. I found out early enough that we were able to control it. But I’d like to reach out at some point and see if they need any help raising awareness about it.”