Near loss of life 3 years in the past, softball’s Sara Groenewegen now chases gold in Tokyo | CBC Sports activities

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Resilient. Adaptable. Stubbornly constructive. That is how Sara Groenewegen describes herself.

However she may have by no means imagined how a lot she must lean on these traits to save lots of her life.

Groenewegen, 26, is a high-powered softball pitcher on the Canadian nationwide group that can take the sector in opposition to Mexico Wednesday in Fukushima north of Tokyo, one of many first occasions of the pandemic-delayed 2020 Olympics.

She’s been a part of the group for years and has grow to be a pacesetter, however three years in the past her life got here crashing down. 

“It is scary to consider how rapidly life can change,” Groenewegen instructed CBC Sports activities lately. “It was an especially scary time.”

Groenewegen was together with her Canadian teammates in Surrey, B.C., her hometown, making ready for the world championships in July 2018.  The group had simply returned from a visit to California and have been days away from heading to Japan for its first Olympic qualifying occasion. 

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Extra from Tokyo 2020

Groenewegen is the softball group’s prime pitcher. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Has Kind 1 diabetes

“I ended up having a fever and again ache,” she mentioned. “Two weeks later I awoke and had no concept what occurred to me. I’ve no recollection of it.”

Docs initially did not notice the severity of what Groenewegen was affected by and nearly despatched her residence. She has Kind 1 diabetes and her insulin pump had damaged days earlier. Her blood sugar ranges have been all around the map and medical doctors weren’t positive if that is what was resulting in Groenewegen’s points. 

Watching Groenewegen deteriorate in entrance of their eyes have been involved teammates and head coach Mark Smith. 

Throughout the span of 48 to 72 hours it went from delicate concern that she was sick to, oh my goodness, Sara may die.​​– Canadian coach Mark Smith

“Throughout the span of 48 to 72 hours it went from delicate concern that she was sick to, oh my goodness, Sara may die,” Smith instructed CBC Sports activities. 

Groenewegen was recognized initially with a bladder an infection. They administered antibiotics however that did nothing. Then she was having coughing suits that left her breathless. Her physique was breaking down minute-by-minute. 

“I used to be placed on life help,” Groenewegen mentioned. “I later realized they gave me a 3 per cent likelihood at survival.”

For 10 days in early August 2018, Groenewegen was in a medically induced coma, hooked as much as 15 tubes operating into her physique to maintain her alive. 

Groenewegen (second from proper) celebrates with teammates fater successful gold on the 2015 Pan Am Video games in Toronto. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

Legionnaires illness

Groenewegen had contracted Legionnaires illness, a uncommon however extreme type of pneumonia. She’s nonetheless not sure how she obtained it however thinks it might need come from the air-con system at one of many lodges she stayed at in California. The virus spreads mostly by water droplets within the air that include micro organism. 

As soon as medical doctors realized what it was, they have been in a position to stabilize her however not with out some tense moments. All of this was occurring whereas her group was in Japan attempting to earn an Olympic berth with out considered one of their star pitchers.

“I used to be nearly in every day contact together with her father to understand how she was doing as a result of I needed to maintain the group apprised of her situation,” coach Smith mentioned. “There was one assembly we had the place there have been loads of tears, myself included. We did not know. We have been instructed the subsequent 48 hours can be contact and go.”

However stubbornly constructive Sara Groenwegen wasn’t about to give up.

Along with her group combating for his or her Olympic dream in Japan, she continued to struggle for her life. After 11 days she was lastly woke up from the coma. 

“I used to be nonetheless able to go to Japan,” she mentioned, laughing. “About two or three days after that the strains have been being taken out of me. They gave me my telephone again.”

Canada’s softball Olympians pose in entrance of the Olympic rings after arriving in Japan. (@SoftballCanada/Twitter)

Misplaced 2 weeks of her life

That is when it began to hit her when she began to learn all her textual content messages. She misplaced almost two weeks of her life with out figuring out it. And through that point her group misplaced an opportunity to qualify for the Olympics, putting third on the world championship however needing a top-two exhibiting to earn a spot on the Video games. 

“I keep in mind attempting to face up and the ache was loopy,” Groenewegen mentioned. “It was a giant wrestle. And that is when it hit me that this was going to be a tough journey. I wasn’t in a position to stroll at the moment. I may barely sit up in mattress. I was taking it day-by-day at that time.”

However the highway to restoration was underway. First the purpose was to stroll down the hospital hallway. That got here rapidly. Then two weeks later she was let loose of the hospital early due to her speedy rehabilitation. 

Six months after her brush with loss of life, Groenewegen was again at a nationwide group coaching camp in January 2019. These first few weeks within the gymnasium have been difficult however she pushed by it. 

Adaptable. Resilient. Her coach comes up with a couple of different phrases to explain her. 

Groenewegen is a part of the 15-person Canadian group making ready to take to Azuma Stadium Subject in Fukushima and able to compete for a gold medal. (Courtesy Sara Groenwegen)

“If you recognize Sara the way in which we all know Sara, you are not stunned concerning the struggle in her. She’s impartial and cussed. She has loads of grit and moxie,” Smith mentioned. 

One yr later, Sara Groenewegen pitched the primary excellent recreation in Pan Am Video games historical past for Canada in Lima, Peru.

Lower than three months later, on the identical Surrey ball diamond the place the nightmare began, Groenewegen helped Canada clinch a spot on the Tokyo Olympics. 

“On the identical area,” she mentioned, nearly nonetheless in disbelief. “We certified. Speak about a full circle second.”

“It is a exceptional story as a result of this can be a girl who may not be with us on this planet,” Smith mentioned. 

Groenewegen is a part of the 15-person group that’s now making ready to take to Azuma Stadium Subject in Fukushima to compete in softball at Tokyo 2020. It is the primary time since 2008 that softball is a part of the Olympic programme. 

The Canadians need to grow to be the primary group in conventional sports activities from Canada to win gold on the Olympics. And the pitcher is little doubt including some additional gas to an already fired up Canadian squad. 

“It is actually cool that I could be an inspiration for my teammates,” Groenewegen mentioned. “This journey is absolutely particular and I am excited to take the sector with them this summer time on the Olympics. We need to make historical past and end the job.”

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