Close to death 3 years ago, softball’s Sara Groenewegen is now after gold medal in Tokyo

Resilient. Adaptable. Positively obstinate. Sara Groenewegen describes herself in this way. But she could have never predicted how much she would have to count on such attributes following a brush with death. Groenewegen, 26, is a powerful softball pitcher for Canada’s national team, which will face Mexico in Fukushima, north of Tokyo, on Wednesday. It’s one of the first events of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which have been postponed due to the pandemic.

How quickly life can change

She’d been a member of the team for years and had progressed to the position of leader, but her life was turned upside down three years ago. It’s terrifying to consider how quickly life can change, Groenewegen recently told CBC Sports. It was a terrifying period. Groenewegen was in Surrey, British Columbia, with her Canadian teammates, practicing for the world championships in July 2018

Close to death 3 years ago, softball's Sara Groenewegen is now after gold medal in Tokyo

I woke up with no opinion of what had occurred

She explained: I ended up with a temperature and back ache.’  I awoke two weeks later with no knowledge what had happened to me. I have no remembrance of it. Groenewegen’s condition was initially misdiagnosed, and doctors were on the verge of sending her home. Her insulin pump had broken a few days before, and she has Type 1 diabetes. Groenewegen’s blood sugar levels were all over the place, and physicians weren’t sure if that was the cause of her problems. Groenewegen’s colleagues and head coach, Mark Smith, stood by and watched her suffer.

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She could die

It moved from moderate anxiety that she was sick to, oh my Gosh, Sara could die in 48 to 72 hours, Smith told CBC Sports. Groenewegen was diagnosed with a bladder infection at first. Then she started coughing uncontrollably, leaving her gasping for air. I was put on life support, and I later heard that I only had a 3% chance of surviving. Groenewegen was in a medically induced coma for ten days in early August 2018, with 15 tubes running into her body to keep her alive.

Legionnaires’ disease

Groenewegen had legionnaires’ disease, an uncommon but life-threatening form of pneumonia. She’s not sure how she got it, but she thinks it came from the air conditioning system of one of the California hotels she stayed at. The virus is conveyed most typically through bacteria-laden water droplets in the air. Doctors were able to stabilize her after they discovered what it was, but not without some anxious moments. All of this occurred when her team was in Japan, attempting to qualify for the Olympics without one of their ace pitchers.

Close to death 3 years ago, softball's Sara Groenewegen is now after gold medal in Tokyo

Her life had been cut short by two weeks

She discovered she had lost nearly two weeks of her life without realizing it until she began to read all of her text messages. Her team also lost one of its opportunities to qualify for the Olympics at that time, finishing third at the world championship but needed a top-two finish to qualify for the Games.

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Full circle

If you know Sara as well as we do, you’ll understand why she’s fighting. She is self-reliant and obstinate. Groenewegen helped Canada secure a spot at the Tokyo Olympics less than three months later, on the same Surrey ball diamond where the horror began. At the same field, she responded, her mouth almost open in surprise. We fulfilled all of the requirements. A full-circle is what I refer to this experience.

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