Looking back, Peter Taglianetti understands the scope of the chronic pain he endured for years and how it affected his life.
“I literally slept two hours a night, then it would catch up and I would crash and sleep for hours,” recalled Taglianetti, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins as a defenseman in the 1990s and remained in the area after his playing career.
“I couldn’t drive. I didn’t really leave the house other than going to work. I became a hermit. I was non-social. I just didn’t feel good. I was white as a ghost. The pain was intolerable.”
Taglianetti’s problem was a hit in a game that caused the hip injury that ended his career. The hip was locked.
Things finally brightened for him when he had hip replacement surgery.
Taglianetti’s story, and that of six others from diverse backgrounds who have dealt with chronic pain, will be chronicled in a documentary, “Pain Matters,” that premiers on The Discovery Channel at 8 a.m. Saturday. It will re-air Dec. 7 and Dec. 14.
Taglianetti, 50, became involved in the project through his wife, Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and mobility doctor.
Over the course of his NHL career, Taglianetti had two back surgeries, two knee surgeries and a punctured lung, but nothing was as debilitating as his hip pain.
“I was dragging my leg behind me,” he said. “That was about eight years. I was like Quasimodo.”
He put off replacement surgery for a few reasons. Insurance policies balked at the procedure in someone relatively young, and doctors wanted to wait until technology evolved to the point where a replacement hip might last longer.
“I should have fought them and said to do it right now,” Taglianetti said.
But he was stubborn.
“I didn’t push,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a 37-year-old with a fake hip. So I dealt with it.
“My philosophy was, I’ll beat it. Whatever locked it in place will somehow [reverse]. We were always told to never tell anybody you’re hurt. There were some times you couldn’t play, but, if you were able to deal with it, you did.”
He said the color was back in his face before he left the hospital, rehabilitation was a breeze — “I was the youngest person there by 20 years,” he said — and he’s now pain-free.
In January 2011 he played in the Penguins-Washington Capitals alumni game that was part of the Winter Classic lineup.
“Before, I couldn’t have bent over to tie my skates,” much less play, Taglianetti said.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.