Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lady Vol recovers after brain surgery

Lady Vols forward Amber Gray, 19, is now in recovery after undergoing surgery for a brain aneurysm. She walks with a limp, her left eyelid droops almost shut as a lingering effect of a stroke, and her left arm is in a sling. However, she said she is determined to play basketball again for the Lady Vols.

"I'm not sure of the timetable ... but I definitely will play again," she said Monday as she prepared to leave a long-term rehabilitation facility to continue her recovery at home in nearby Mason. "As soon as they say I can go out on the court, I'm getting out there.

"I'm still working on my walking," she said. "I do eyebrow raisers every day."

Unfortunately, Gray will not be able to play this year, but The Associated Press reported that she did play in 27 games her freshman year. Gray was also voted the top girls prep basketball player in Ohio a year ago and was recruited by all the top college programs.

Doctors first discovered the brain aneurysm after Gray had shoulder surgery in July. She then underwent a 12 1/2-hour procedure that may have saved her life.

The Associated Press reported that Dr. Mark Goddard helped oversee Gray's rehab at Cincinnati's Drake Center. He said it was lucky the aneurysm showed up while Gray was hospitalized.

"Whether you call it serendipity or divine providence, they noticed that something wasn't right," Goddard said. "She probably had this all along, but people don't generally notice it until their '30s and '40s."

Goddard said Gray had successful rotator cuff surgery on July 2 in Knoxville, Tenn., and the aneurysm was unrelated. Goddard said that within hours of surgery, Gray's lungs filled with fluid and doctors performed more tests to get to the root of the problem.

The doctors spent days searching for the cause of the stroke. Finally, a broken blood vessel showed up. During this time, Gray was transferred to University Hospital Cincinnati for neurosurgery. She was then transferred to the rehabilitation center on July 23.

"Amber's strong will, positive attitude and determination, coupled with the excellent work of her medical team, has allowed for her release 2½ weeks ahead of schedule," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "The Lady Vol basketball family continues to keep Amber in our constant thoughts and prayers.

"We know she will approach the next phase of her rehabilitation with the same strong will, determination and intensity."

Gray's mother, Tonya Carter, said she was afraid that her daughter might never wake up again.

"I've always known that she was a strong person, but she was amazingly strong," Carter said.

Gray said she expects to return to classes at the University of Tennessee in January.