Amber Gray cheers on teammates at practice.
Dec. 10, 2009
By Courtney Lyle
Routine shoulder surgery turned into a life-saving operation for Lady Vol basketball player Amber Gray. On July 2, the sophomore forward was recovering from surgery to repair her rotator cuff when her lungs filled up with fluid and she suffered a stroke. The stroke eventually led to the discovery of a brain aneurysm.
After numerous tests yielded no results, the decision was made to transfer Gray to University Hospital in Cincinnati.
"They ran some more tests, really couldn't find anything. So they decided to fly me to Cincinnati," said Gray.
Jenny Moshak, University of Tennessee Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine, said it was finally realized that this case needed specialized support.
"There was always a suspicion that there was an aneurysm. [They] just couldn't find it, because nothing else was making sense," said Moshak.
Gray underwent more MRIs, CT scans, and tests until doctors found the hidden aneurysm in her brain. Surgery was scheduled immediately to repair the aneurysm. The procedure lasted 12-and-a-half hours.
"When the neurosurgeon got in there, after he clamped off both ends of the aneurysm, he touched it and it exploded. So basically she was a walking time bomb," said Moshak.
Moshak explained that at any point, Gray could have hit her head or gone to bed with a headache and not woken up the next morning.
"It really didn't scare me, just because I was still here and I was still alive," said Gray. "I was just lucky that they found it. I didn't really realize what happened until I was going through rehab in Drake."
Gray was sent to the Drake Center for stroke and shoulder rehabilitation. "Learning how to walk again, learning how to focus and concentrate with her eye, getting her cognitive process back, getting speech work done...So all of the things for daily living is what they focused on," said Moshak.
On August 11, Gray was released from rehabilitation, two-and-a-half weeks early.
Now back in Knoxville, Gray's rehabilitation continues. Unlike most sports injuries, she has to focus on physical and cognitive healing.
According to Moshak, Gray will start classes in January. She will not travel with the team during the week in order to focus on her schoolwork.
After all she's been through; Gray continues to be a positive voice on the bench for her teammates.
"I'm viewing the game a lot differently because I'm not anxious to get in there because I know I'm not going to play," said Gray. "I'm able to help, especially the freshmen, on doing the things that they need to do and get done."
Gray is expected to play basketball in the future, but nothing is guaranteed.
"That is the goal at this point in time," said Moshak. "I think it's too
early to completely predict that. We're working towards that. That's what's motivating her. We're definitely not taking it off the table, but there are no guarantees at this point either."