LOS ANGELESWhen veteran director Ivan was diagnosed with diabetes, the burly 250-pound helmsman never realized he would get a bad infection that would have him fighting for his life just a few years later. It wasnt exactly the outcome he expected after a long career in the adult industry that saw him work for such companies as Extreme Associates, Evolution Erotica, Anabolic, Desire Films, AltErotic and others. Having arrived in the industry in 2002 after working in mainstream movies and TV shows since earning a degree in cinematography, Ivan, as he came to be known, made his mark with such movies as Texas Asshole Massacre (2004) Dawn of the Head (2005) and many others, earning him a number of awards and award nominations. But it was just last October when the Russian-born director known for his quirky sense of humor and intensity found himself barely able to walk due to a swollen leg and foot. The pain was excruciating and he realized that a toe he injured just a few days earlier may have incurred an infection that spread throughout his left leg. After a battery of tests and examinations, it was clear the infection had spread up his leg past his knee and was threatening his life as his kidneys and heart began failing while doctors struggled to treat the infection. The most difficult part at the hospital for sure was just thinking about my parents coming to visit daily and what they must have been feeling, he recalled. I felt guilty that I was putting them through these emotions. I’ve always been the person who hid my issues and didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, ever. Now I didn’t have a choice. When it came to fear, at first I obviously was worried about losing my leg, but when that seemed to be not an issue, it was mostly how will I work again? While undergoing the first of eight surgeries to save his leg and clean out the infection which was quickly spreading, Ivan began rethinking his workaholic routine of working long hours and eating unhealthy meals and having little time to exercise. When youre in the hospital, you realize that you could have taken better care of yourself and you didnt, he said. You take a lot of things for granted, but you dont realize it until something like this happens. But even as doctors worked feverishly on him over the next several days, he was told he may lose the leg, as the depth of the infection became clearer. But at least he would be alive, he thought, despite the constant excruciating pain. His steady stream of friends and colleagues from the adult industry who visited him were his only respite. They encouraged him and lifted his spirits even as a painful gaping wound on his leg made it difficult for him to move or focus. But he finally received good news. When they took me out of ICU, I knew I would be at least alive. Wasn’t sure to what extent my damage was, but getting tubes pulled out of my neck was a good step. Once they pulled out another long tube from my inner thigh I knew I was out of the danger zone. As his pain-filled hospital stay went from a few days to weeks at a time along with repeated surgeries, Ivan wondered how much more he could take. The most painful part for sure was the wound dressing changes when the nerves in my leg were exposed. The pain shot from my leg, down and instantly all the way up my body to my head. My body would uncontrollably shake and shiver. They would pull out the bloody dressings and that would pull on the exposed nerve which was horrifying. They had to put new dressing on over the exposed nerve. Just brutal. I sometimes would ask for a break because I felt like my heart was going to explode. But weeks into his treatment, doctors had discovered yet another large infection that would need immediate surgery, putting a pause on any thoughts that his condition was improving. The surgery was followed by additional surgeries to get rid of the infection and infected tissue. As the days dragged on and the pain and uncertainty about his condition continued, Ivan remained positive, but came to realize that whatever his fate, he would be at peace with it. I’ve always been pretty spiritual in a sense. I believe there is something, not sure if it’s God or just energy or aliens or just our own utopia we create in our heads. But there is something for sure there that I began to feel, he recalled. So dying, I am not afraid of. I for sure thought about a healthier living not just physically, but mentally as well. Mental peace is so important, it keeps you on the right path. After seven weeks of treatment and constant pain, Ivan began wondering if he would ever leave the hospital until one day last November he received good news. He would be leaving finally. But he wasnt quite ready for the reality of his weakened state once he got home. When I first left the hospital, I couldn’t walk from almost two months in bed. We had two giant guys carry me upstairs where I lived for probably a month without going downstairs, he said. Food was brought to me. My nurse showed up daily to do wound dressing changes because I had a wound vacuum attached to my leg. I also had for over a month an IV in my arm for antibiotics because of the infection in the bone. I tried to walk with a walker and felt like an old broken human. By late February, Ivan was back on set, but moving a little slower and taking things easy, but with flashes of his old intensity and creativity. AltErotic had Evilyn Ink coming into town for a whole weekend. I never met her and was anxious to create cool stuff with her. We also had Genevieve Sinn coming in to do scenes as well as get tattooed on camera. I was excited to get back to work. I had the wound vacuum attached to my leg while it hung off my shoulder, he recalled. I loved being back and the ladies just were patient with me. I took necessary breaks while my friend did the stills and some necessary heavy lifting. I am always going to be a workaholic, I just love too much in what I do. Just now it has to be measured and done properly and planned out. Today, a much thinner Ivan is still recovering, and the COVID-19 pandemic is giving him the time to heal himself and explore new options in healthy eating and exercising as well as developing new projects. What I learned during this experience is how important it is to listen to your body. We all get freaked out and look the other way. Many of us have this I got this! mentality. But truthfully, we don’t. Our bodies warn us and so do our minds, we need to listen before it’s too late, he said. In the last few years people like industry guys Ron Ellis and Bill Fox passed away from complications with their weight. In my head I was not remotely close to them, but my body gave me signs then. … People should stop and do a wellness check on themselves physically, mentally, business-wise and how they treat others. We hustle and bustle and just run with no breaks. But we need those breaks. They are crucial. To learn more about Ivan, visit www.IamIvan.com or follow him on Twitter @IamIvanXXX.
written by: Carlos Martinez