Backtrack with me 700 miles or so....
One morning last fall, I packed my rollerblades, hockey stick, and pads into the car. My whole body was jittery with excitement as I drove to the therapy gym.
I was going to skate with Brian Propp!
If you don't know what a big deal that is, you haven't been a Flyers fan as long as I have.
I wanted to shout it to everyone I knew, but I couldn't.
As a hospital, Magee takes patient privacy very seriously. So there was no camera. No blog post. Just two Magee therapists and two Magee patients -- Brian Propp and me -- lacing up our skates and passing the puck around in the basement parking garage (a.k.a. "the skating rink").
No, it wasn't the Spectrum ice. It was much cooler!
I started going to Flyers games as an infant in my dad's arms. Growing up, my brothers and I dressed as Flyers players for Halloween. And for my Sweet Sixteen, I got a real Flyers jersey.
Brian Propp played left wing on the Flyers for 11 seasons. I watched him from the time I was in elementary school until I went to college. To a teenage Flyers fan like me, Brian and his teammates always seemed larger than life.
That day we skated in the Magee parking garage was not really the first time we met...
|This was the first time!|
In his career as a pro athlete, Brian Propp had visited patients at Magee many times. But last summer, when he suffered a stroke, Brian became a patient himself. He couldn't move the right side of his body. He couldn't stand up. And he couldn't speak more than 3 words.
|(And our therapists were|
creative to get us there!)
I admit it. When I heard Brian Propp was a patient at Magee, I was pretty star-struck. (Ok, I still am!) But here's the truth:
Illness and injury can strike anyone. Even our greatest heroes.
It comes out of nowhere. It knocks you down when you least expect it. It levels the playing field, or the skating rink -- OR LIFE -- in ways you never, ever could have imagined.
Fast forward to Mile 3,974. It's my second year attending Magee's Night of Champions. At last year's event, I was honored to receive the Believe Award. This year, I have a different honor. I'm presenting that award to Brian Propp!
Like most Magee patients, Brian struggled to get his life back. And in many ways, I understand how that feels. But is it different when you're in the public eye? When patients recognize you? When they're star-struck? When they're looking to you to continue to be their hero?
Some days, I watched Brian from my mat in the therapy gym. He was determined, motivated, and persistent. I'm sure he worked as hard in therapy as he ever played on the ice. But he also took time to engage with other patients. (One man with a Flyers tattoo told me proudly how he'd gotten a photo with Brian Propp!) During Brian's own rehab, he reached out and gave back.
Magee's slogan is BELIEVE, and that's what we learn to do. We learn it from our therapists, from our doctors and nurses, and from our families and friends. They all help us find our way back. But the most powerful support is what we, as patients, give to other. That's the stuff of heroes.
I'm still in awe. And now, more than ever, I BELIEVE.