In the early morning of Dec. 31, 2015, Denna Laing couldn’t sleep.
She had been called up from the Boston Pride’s practice squad to play for the National Women’s Hockey League team in a women’s outdoor hockey game against Montreal of the CWHL, during the Winter Classic celebration at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
It was a thrill as a hockey player. It was a thrill as a Massachusetts native. And then it became a nightmare.
Late in the first period, Laing went to the corner and accidentally stepped on another player’s stick. She tumbled violently into the boards. Medical staff came over to tend to her. Laing was then stretchered off the ice. She was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was joined by her family.
Laing suffered a “significant spinal injury” at the Women’s Outdoor Classic. She soon tweeted an update to show she was making progress in her recovery. That work continued throughout the year, as she stayed positive while hoping to get some sensation back in her lower extremities.
Laing continues on the long road back from injury. As they announced at the game, she’s back living at home after having moved out of a rehab facility.
Laing does not have much control over her wrists and fingers, so she must use gloves and splints for moving around in her therapy pool and use a stylus to type on her computer and her phone. Her biceps are constantly firing and her triceps aren’t working well. Her left arm has more ability than her right, so she has had to switch from being predominantly right-handed to left-handed. There is an imbalance in her shoulder blades, pulling them inward, which can be painful. Her temperature control is off, leading to near-constant coldness, something that will be corrected in the renovation of her family’s Marblehead, Mass., home with special heating just for her room.
There are trials she could participate in, implants that might be options, but none of it can be tackled until she gets through more of the process, until she sees how far she can get on her own.
“I have a little [sensation] in my hands, not much really,” Laing said. “Just my thumbs. But I definitely have sensation in my arms, my chest, my neck, some of my back, too. But it’s not been great gains.”
All the best to Laing on her continued recovery.
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