McPherson suffered a serious setback just before she was scheduled to be released.
“We were heading home, a week after surgery, and then it started to go bad,” said Karen McPherson.
“Her blood pressure dropped to 40 over zero; she went into septic shock. She went blind. When she told me she was losing her eyesight, I was in shock myself. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”
The condition required another week of hospitalization before McPherson finally turned the corner.
Despite the uncertainty of her hockey future, Brittany’s parents agreed she could attend St. Mary’s. Shortly after Labor Day, it became clear that McPherson could not only play, but would compete.
St. Mary’s coach Frank Pagliuca said “you forget she’s only in 8th grade.
“You kind of sit back and wonder, ‘wow, think about what she’s gone through in such a short period of time, and for her to get back on the ice.’ It’s not an easy position, physically. You can’t hide from the puck. It’s a tribute to her work ethic and the remarkable job her physicians did to get her back to this point, and the support of her family.”
McPherson has also earned the admiration of her teammates. “She’s a tough kid, and we all know that and recognize that,” said Skinnion. “We appreciate how hard she works for the team. And she’s funny.”
McPherson’s recovery has also encouraged her to give back. She said she wants to raise both awareness and funds to fight the disease. She formed “Brittany’s Battle Buddies” to participate in the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s walk-a-thon fund-raiser at Boston Common on June 1, almost a year to the date of her surgery.
“A lot of people don’t really know about it,” she said. “If you’re walking down the street and see someone without an arm, you know they don’t have an arm. But you don’t know if someone has ulcerative colitis. It’s hidden. And a lot of people don’t talk about it, because it’s not a very romantic disease.”
Her parents are relieved to see their daughter once again playing the game she loves.
“There was so much doubt about how things were going to play out last year. It could have gone any number of ways,” Scott said. “Thankfully, it went in the direction it did, because of the courage she had, and her focus on getting better.”
“When St. Mary’s opened their season in early December, and we were in the stands, and she was out there warming up,” said Scott. “They played the national anthem, and to see her out there, healthy, it was emotional for all of us. I can’t even tell you how emotional it was.”
Then his wife added with a smile, “Her shutout against Winthrop was pretty good, too.”
Brion O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.