EDMONTON – Nicholas Mudryk was 14 years old and a Bantam AA goalie when he had a stroke. It started with a splitting headache at practice on Oct. 23, 2014. Nicholas called his mother, who rushed to the rink.
“By the time I walked into the lobby, into the hall, (Nicholas) was already on the ground, face down,” recalled Cindy Mudryk.
It turns out, Nicholas was born with an arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in the brain, that happened to rupture at that moment.
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“(The doctors) give you the worst case scenario. They tell you, ‘He may not know you. He may not wake up,’” said Cindy.
“That was the hardest because we didn’t know what to expect.”
After two surgeries and several days in an induced coma, Nicholas did wake up. But his formerly athletic body couldn’t move the way it could before. Even writing his name was a challenge.
“I could hold the pen,” remembered Nicholas, “but it was kinda weird. And I was like, ‘What the heck, why isn’t it working at all?’”
Even worse: he couldn’t walk. And doctors told the teen he may never play hockey again.
“I kinda knew that would happen, but I didn’t… I didn’t want to believe it,” said Nicholas.
It was devastating news for Nicholas, who grew up in the rink. But, by the time he wheeled into the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, he was ready to do whatever it took to get back on the ice.
His therapists described him as unstoppable, even relentless. He required two staff members just to keep up with him.
“He wore us out good,” laughed physical therapist assistant Lori Wolfe. “Nick was very good at getting both of us tired by the end of the day… by the beginning of the day, actually!”
The Glenrose team designed several hockey-inspired therapies, to help strengthen his body and rebuild his balance.
As soon as he was back on his feet, Nicholas returned to the rink – not as a player, but as an assistant coach for his former team mates. Watching his friends from the sidelines wasn’t easy, but he felt it was necessary.
“Me being there (coaching) kind of gave me (an attitude) like, ‘OK, you’ve just got to work a little harder and dig a little deeper.’”
One year after his stroke, Nicholas achieved his dream. He recently made the Midget AA Strathcona Warriors. His coach chose him not only for his net-minding skills, but for his attitude.
“Nick’s a leader in the dressing room,” said coach Colin Sadownyk.
“He’s an example for the rest of the boys. And the boys all see that in him.”
Nicholas’ mother beams with pride. “He never gave up, he didn’t. He never gave up.”
Glenrose staff will award Nicholas, and three other patients, with an Award of Courage later this week. The young goalie is proud to have reached his own personal goals.
“Hard work pays off sometimes and gets you to places that you want to get to,” smiled Nicholas. “It’s pretty nice.”
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