The GrovesLine

just a place where i hang my thoughts out to dry

Dear Sidney Crosby,

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Dear Sidney Crosby,

I read in the paper last week that you’ve encountered a setback on the road to recovery from your concussion. I knew that you’d been back on the ice with your teammates and that things were going pretty well. Then one day you pushed it a little too hard and unfortunately slid back into ‘symptom-land’. I felt really bad for you when I read the article because it seemed like you were getting there and it’s really hard to accept that you’re not. I feel your pain, believe me.  I’ve been a regular visitor to the mysterious and unpredictable ‘symptom-land’ recently. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there, as we have tended to arrive at the same time. Maybe you’re staying at a different hotel!

We’ve never met, you and I, although I feel like I know you because, well, you’re a famous Canadian hockey star. And I watched with pure joy as you scored the OT winner at the Olympics in Vancouver, which instantly and forever connected you with every beating Canadian heart alive at that moment. Thank you for that goal!

We did cross paths once though, quite literally in fact, after the closing ceremonies in Vancouver in the Athletes Village. I was walking to the food tent, you were walking back.  Me, gushing in whispers to my BF that it was you. You, simply walking by nonchalantly with one of your teammates. Our jacket sleeves almost touched. Sorry if that sounded creepy.

I’ve followed the numerous updates on your status with more interest than I might normally have for a hockey player, partly because I’m a fan, but mostly because I know what you’re going through and I somehow take comfort in the fact that someone else out there is having a tough go with the old head.  I feel less crazy knowing that someone like you is having setbacks like me.

Now it seems as though we are on the same path, albeit under somewhat different levels of scrutiny. Your every move is noted and analyzed in the hopes that you might be back to scoring goals ASAP. Me, not so much, although I do spend a fair bit of time scrutinizing myself and how I feel in the hopes that I might be back to something fun ASAP.  It must have been disappointing for you to watch your team be eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but there is a little part of me that suspects that a little part of you felt a bit relieved that maybe now you can disappear to recover in peace and quiet.

I bet you love hockey a whole lot, and although I can’t relate to your life on most levels, I do understand the absolute joy of sport and love of competition quite intimately. I’ve been speed skating for as long as you’ve been alive! But the sheer injustice of having that yanked out from under you, and the pull of your heart to reach the pinnacle of what you are so passionate about halted in cold blood, that hurts. I know. But then, you’re young, you have so much time!  And I’m glad for you that you are being smart about the whole thing, not rushing back to play and ‘be tough’.  Your sport is unforgiving and brutal at times, and you are wise to recover fully before re-entering that arena.

Me, I don’t have so much time.  To recover yes, of course I’ve got reams of time for that.  But re-entering the arena, well, that I don’t know about. I’m old you know! I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that up until now I’ve had a pretty great go of it and I accomplished a great deal, much of which seemed unlikely at times. I sure miss it though. But then I miss just simply feeling good and normal even more.

Did you ever think it would take so long? I sure didn’t and somehow I doubt you did either. Being an athlete, it’s in your bones, and you just want to GO! It’s hard to have to stop. And when you start again and it feels okay you think, ‘alright, I’m getting there’ and it feels so great!  Then you go a little longer next time, maybe just a tiny bit harder and bam, you’re right back to where you started.

I guess the thing about it is you just don’t know how it’s going to go.  With anything really; life, sport, that play, that shot, that goal, that hit…  I guess it keeps things interesting. The best we can do is remain hopeful that it will get better, that we’ll be back on the ice someday soon, ripping it up. As tough as it is, I like to think that I’ll come out of this somehow better than I went in. I don’t always believe that but knowing that eventually I will be fine is some consolation to the daily ups and downs.

Thanks for being such a great Canadian hero, for being a smart athlete and for helping me get through this tough time. Maybe we’ll cross paths again someday and be able to share a laugh or two over the ‘dark days’ of concussions and how great it is to be healthy.

I hope I don’t read any more articles about you in the paper about setbacks. I sincerely hope you are back on the ice soon feeling good and doing what you love to do.

Sincerely,

Kristina Groves

p.s. I looked up your famous goal on you tube and found this gem. It’s just like it was being there.  Look what you did for Canada!

13 thoughts on “Dear Sidney Crosby,

  1. I hope Sid does read your letter. It gives me warmth reading it.
    I hope both of you will be symptom-free forever in your life.

  2. My 13 year daughter suffered a concussion while snowboarding in January this year.
    She was shut down in mid Feb for 4 weeks with no activity due to severe headaches,dizziness, loss of balance that were constant.
    Now into early May she still suffers from spontenous headaches, and has been going to school half days since mid April when she can. Seeing an Athlete like yourself going through a similiar ordeal, gives her encouragement that she is not alone.

  3. My 13 year daughter suffered a concussion in late January this year while snowboarding. As the symptoms persisted, She was shut down in mid Feb for 4 weeks. As of mid April she has been going to school half days when She can, unless symptoms are present. Seeing an athlete lke yourself going through a similiar experience has given her strenght she is not alone in her ordeal.

  4. It’s odd that plumber should have something in common with high-performance athletes, but a head injury puts all on the same playing field. I received a head injury, at work, a month before Sidney did and, like both of you, am still having issues with trying to get back to “normal”.
    Your interview in the Star rang true to me. Just when I think things are looking good, you get a reality check, and you spend days in a world of headaches and dizziness. Currently, I’m on day 4 of bad symptoms from overdoing the activity level.
    Good luck with your recovery and and thanks for getting the word out.

  5. I had the wonderful opportunity to see you win your medals in Vancouver – and to volunteer with Speed Skating Canada as a communications assistant at Speed Skating Canada House. Your letter to Sidney Crosby was very moving as you are both amazing athletes and such great ambassadors for Canada. As the mom of a young hockey player who suffered a concussion this year, I can only emphathize with you and wish both you and Sidney Crosby a full recovery so that we can once again experience the great joy you have brought to us through your atheletic and community focused endeavours.

  6. Great article and honesty. I am also concerned about Crosby’s injury; as I am about yours. Thank you for wearing your emotions on your sleeve; this is a sign of great passion and emotion. You will both be back.

  7. I came across your blog quite by accident…and I sure am glad that I did. My 16 year-old daughter suffered a concussion during a hockey game on January 20. It has been a long, lonely few months, full of ups and downs and numerous setbacks. Like David Hart’s daughter, she has been going to school part-time when she can. It is both comforting and encouraging to know that she is not alone in this ordeal. We loved your letter to Sidney…thank you!

  8. I really hope he reads this. It’s so lovely yet so, so sad, it makes me tear up. Get well soon, both of you. Much love xxx

  9. A close friend of mine sent me the article from ‘The Star’ where you wrote a letter to Crosby. While reading the letter, and the responses to your blog, I felt compelled to write, as a positive example of going through it, and healing. I was badly injured in a bike racing crash in spring of 2009. For a year and a half I battled all of the familiar symptoms of post-concussive syndrome (while also battling the lack of understanding of people around me, who see a person that ‘appears normal’ and can’t understand what’s going on). As I’m sure anyone going through it can relate, there are many days where you wonder if it will ever end. There are also days where you doubt if what you’re feeling is real. And then there are the days, where you think you must be downright crazy. In my case, for reasons I can’t totally explain, finally, in September of 2010 the fog in my head lifted and I began to slowly incorporate exercise and a more active lifestyle into my life. Fast forward to May, 2011, and I’m training daily, finishing a university degree, and leading a normal life (although more appreciative of normal now!). The point of me writing this, is one of the biggest things that helped me, was meeting/talking to other athletes that went through what I did AND HEALED!! I hope this has helped, and I’m sure you (and Crosby, and all those other athletes out there) will get better soon. It does take time and patience, but in the end you’ll be such a better person for having gone through it!

    Good luck to you…and I hope this helped!

  10. this article was a nice read. really moving. after just meeting you last time, i hurt myself snowboarding and am still having spontaneous symptoms and still having to limit myself from school and activities. i hope you get well soon!

  11. Dear Kristina Groves,

    About a year ago a mother of one of my teammates emailed me an article with this blog post in it. You have no idea how much your words have helped me, and I figured it was about time I searched out your blog and thanked you.

    On January 16, 2011 I received my third “official” concussion playing hockey. I say official because when I think about it now, I hit my head a lot when I was a kid, and my second concussion is kind of a 2 in 1 sort of deal. One could argue that I’ve had four concussions, but I like to say three to make it not sound as bad.

    This concussion was by far the worst. With the first two, I was over them in no more than a couple of weeks, and the first one was the only one where I was knocked out. This concussion was so much different though. I received it while playing in my high school league all-star game, a game I get so excited to play every year. Two girls hit me, one high to my head and one somewhere lower, and I landed on my head too. The thing different about this concussion is that I got right back up again and finished the rest of the game feeling perfectly fine. I even stayed to watch the boys’ game after and drove two of my friends home – something I cringe about now. It wasn’t until that night that I became nauseous and got one nasty headache. This lasted for about two months.

    School was horrible, and this was right before exams. One of my friends nicknamed me Space-Case because I was so zoned out and had so much Advil in me. I was really worried about my exams with it being my grade twelve year and trying to keep my marks up for scholarships. I never spoke to my teachers about trying to get out of my exams; I always hated the idea of getting some sort of special treatment. But in one global geography class one of my classmates was giving a presentation on some war torn country, and they showed a this horrible video. It was taken with a shaky camera and there were so many loud noises. I thought I was going to pass out. One of my best friends noticed me, apparently I looked pretty bad back then, and she told my teacher who was also my soccer coach and who was also familiar with my head injuries. At the end of the day my teacher held me back and talked to me about how serious my situation was and if I thought I was honestly going to be able study for my exams.

    I did not like the idea of being the only one not writing exams, but he said if I couldn’t write them, I couldn’t, and he talked to my principal and my other teachers, and we figured it out. About the only good thing about having a concussion was getting exempted from my provincial grade 12 English exam, which so many people dread. My precalculus exam was just postponed for me until I was ready, and when my teacher handed me the exam, she stared right into my eyes and made me promised that I was up for it. I was the only one in the room with my teacher when I wrote it and she interrupted me a few times asking if certain comments she was making on report cards sounded ok – I have a feeling she was just checking in on how my head was doing and whether I had that weird look in my eyes.

    I was extremely lucky to have had so many great people looking out for me: my parents, my teachers, my coaches, my doctors and physiotherapist, and my friends. Being from the same province as Sidney Crosby and receiving my concussion around the same time he did, there were so many things on the news and in the papers. For a time it felt like my parents were calling me into t.v. room every night to hear a new thing on concussions. I even went to a women’s university hockey game, and right inside the doors there was a booth on concussions. At one point I even got frustrated hearing so much about concussions because to me I knew what it was and what it felt like, and to get better I had to rest, avoid activities that brought on symptoms, and so on.

    I was fed up with it taking so long to get better. I really love hockey, and this was my final year in high school hockey and minor hockey, and I wanted to try out for university hockey. The time away from playing hockey was killing me – being at the rink and watching all my team’s games was not enough for me, I needed to have my skates on and be on the ice.

    In mid-March I began playing again. I had tried to get back on the ice in February, but that didn’t work out. But in March I thought I was ok. I think I just convinced myself that I was ok. Looking back now, I don’t think I was, even though I was no longer nauseous and didn’t constantly have a headache, my head wasn’t strong. That’s actually one way I’ve come to explain it, when I don’t feel right my head feels weak.

    After a couple of weeks, hockey season was over, and I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t better. I had gotten through those last few weeks by avoiding the corners on the ice, and uncharacteristically slashing a girl real good in the back of the calves after she wacked me over the head with her stick to let her know I was serious about head respect – at least that’s what I tell myself to justify my actions. I don’t regret playing, even though I know I shouldn’t have, but with it being my grade 12 year, it meant a lot to me that I got to skate alongside my teammates. Sitting in my room right now I can look up on my shelf and see the puck of the last goal I scored in my last high school game to win the game. I was made to promise not to make any rushes during that game (but that’s how I scored the goal) and I had to even beg my coach to let me play (he gave in 15 minutes before the game and I may have drove home and back to the rink in record time to get my gear). I was pretty excited to say the least.

    After hockey season, my life settled down a lot. I focused on just getting through the rest of school. I really wanted to play soccer that summer but I behaved and was a bench warmer. I saw a specialist for my head. She was really nice, but there wasn’t a whole lot new to learn. As I said, I sat through a lot of t.v. interviews, one of them actually being hers. But it was good to know that there weren’t any further complications and she believed that I could play sports again, which meant a lot for me to hear.

    My goal that summer was to get healthy before I went away to university, and I dealt with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to play university hockey, at least that year (I still hope though).

    One thing I learned is that you can’t put a time frame on getting that head strong. I had a good year at university, but it was much more subdue than a lot of other first year students. I was very cautious with exercising, a little too much and the headaches would come back and classes the next day would be really fun. But I watched a quite a few hockey games and even got to coach my residence hockey team!

    Today I can say my head feels strong again. I have been doing physiotherapy this summer which has helped so much, and I’m playing soccer! I got a scare a couple nights ago when I got the ball to the face, but I am so excited to say my head is completely fine. I will never take for granted again my ability to be active and exercise. After a year and a half, I am so grateful to be healthy again. I don’t know if I’ll ever play university hockey, but I think I’ll start with inter-murals, maybe junior varsity, who knows what will happen. I know I’m not leaving hockey though. It brings me pure joy, and watching that clip of seeing Crosby score the golden goal gives me chills every time.

    Scrolling up I just beginning to realize how long this comment is. I don’t know if that’s ok or what proper comment etiquette is on blogs, but I wanted to let you know that reading this post has helped me a lot. Every time I read it, it gave me a little more hope on my road to getting over that darn concussion. So thank you, thank you so much!

    • Hi Michelle,
      Apologies for such a late reply, I haven’t been very good at checking in and updating my blog lately! I’m so glad to hear you are doing better and grateful that my blog was able to provide you with some hope and support as you were recovering from your own concussion. It certainly is a challenging process but one that, if taken care of properly, will end up with a full recovery. Best of luck with your future and thanks so much for stopping by!
      Kristina

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