This morning we learned of the tragic passing of Shobushi. To recap, a month ago he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Upon his positive test, he was sent to the hospital and to likely isolation. Sadly, his death — and the last month of his life — were likely quite lonely.

Shobushi’s Shokkiri (photo: Nicola)

While in the hospital, visitors would have been banned. If in stable condition, every four hours to six hours or so, a nurse would come in to check vitals. Once a day a doctor would come in and check on him. We learned that nine days after his positive test, his condition worsened and he was sent to intensive care. At that point he may have been given more oxygen and remained conscious and alert, or sedated and intubated so the machines could help him breathe. In NYC, 80% of these ended in fatality.

So, when conscious and not intubated, his nurses and doctors would come in and they’d they’d ask him questions about his symptoms, wish him well, and leave to continue their rounds. Lots of people in the room and a flurry of activity would be very bad news indeed.

Several of his stablemates and his stable master would later test positive and be sent to the hospital, too. Had they been permitted to come visit him? Or had they caught it at the stable? Such a visit would have been against the guidance of many health agencies so it is unlikely.

But in any case, we knew a wrestler had tested positive, gone to the hospital, and there had been no news about whether he had come out. His stable master and other stablemates were discharged and our days carried on. But while the Kyokai debated whether they could hold a Natsu basho, he lay in the ICU, alone. No family, no friends, no supporters.

“Andy, where are you going with this?” I’m probably not the only one to wake up this morning, shocked and dismayed at the news that a rikishi had died from the Coronavirus. But the thing is, I’d been expecting it.

His illness and death were not sudden. Many insiders and heya supporters may have known the identity of the unnamed rikishi and some possibly knew of his condition. However, I am disappointed that more news was not shared by the Takadagawa-beya or the Sumo Kyokai.

It feels quite morbid to celebrate the life and career of someone whose name I was not familiar with. Herouth has covered him in her Jungyo posts, pictured with homeboy Ryuden and as tsukebito for Kagayaki. I do wonder how things would have been different if we had known his identity earlier and kept abreast of his condition.

I don’t ask for more information out of morbid curiosity but of genuine concern. And privacy is a certainly a valid concern…but so is the health and well-being of our fellow man.

I’m not a religious person so I’m not going to think that, “Oh, we could have prayed for him and he’d be better.” But I can’t help think about that last month of his life and wonder about what I’d have done if I’d known. The little news offered about the other wrestlers (one or two of whom may still be in hospital). And I can’t help but think about how I could have found this picture among those in Nicola’s archive weeks ago, shared it with you weeks ago, and we could have wished him well. And, if he tracked the news and social media, perhaps he could have known we were rooting for him.

9 thoughts on “Commentary

  1. Andy, you are a good person. Though we didn’t know much about him, we did wish him well, and sometimes that’s all you can do.. Now, we can honor his memory. Maybe Herouth would be willing to write something.

    • Thank you. I feel pretty bad that I didn’t know much about him. It’s a reason I’m really eager for more news from jungyo and coverage of lower division bouts. There are a thousand guys active in the sumo world and I feel I know such a small portion.

  2. Frankly, I don’t think public knowledge would have given him anything. I’m sure as long as he could hold a phone, his heya mates and family kept in touch with him. I am not sure knowing fans are behind him would have been that significant to him. Furthermore, Japanese have this thing about not worrying others, so it could be that knowing that the whole world knows about his situation would have mortified him.

    Personally, I’m very shocked by this, as he was a very well known rikishi to anybody who was following Jungyo and watching shokkiri. Sumo Twitter is currently overflowing with photos and videos of him. It’s always shocking when it’s a person you are familiar with.

    Many lessons from the Diamond Princess are still not being put into practice. For example, “don’t check symptoms, check blood oxygenation”. NHK World has been airing a documentary about it in the past few days. It’s well worth watching. Also, recent findings that blood clots are associated with COVID have made blood thinners a standard procedure in ICUs here in Israel. How efficient is information sharing between health care organizations around the world? Could this young 28 years old man have been saved?

    • 100% agree. Thank you for the documentary link! Your point about the Diamond Princess lessons still not being put in practice is a bit disconcerting for a country hoping to host the Olympics. Your last question is what really makes me pause because of such little information.

      I had no idea what blood oxygenation was a couple months ago. The nurses and doctors sure obsessed about it and I got a blood thinner (Levinox) shot every day to prevent blood clots. Is the prevalence higher for COVID patients or is it because of spending so much time in the bed?

      • I only have this from news sources so I’m not exactly a reliable source, but I understand that there is a higher incidence of relatively young people coming in to hospitals with strokes, so they were not bedridden before.

        • Oh wow. Yeah, that’s probably outside the bedridden part but bloodclots can develop quickly from being sedentary…like on long flights. This thing is insidious.

          I just feel real bad for him and the fact that few (if any) of his loved ones would have been allowed to be with him. Not just for the past few days but for the past month. The deluge of well wishes, pictures and photos on Twitter that you mentioned do show he was loved. It’s…rough.

  3. My heart hurts for this kid. I wish all his stable mates and his stable head a good recovery and I send them my many many condolences :(

  4. Chris Sumo did a really nice piece on him. Give you an idea of who he was, where he came from. IT was really nice honestly.


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