Nick Brown had just finished his first weekend as a defender with the STU Tommies soccer team. He was fitting into the squad well when he was hit with some tough news. Doctors told him he had a slight detachment in his retina again, and heading the ball would increase the chance of detaching it further.
Brown was forced to make the difficult decision to put his athletic career on hold again.
“It was depressing really. I was pretty upset. I worked really hard.”
His diagnosis ended a determined and unlikely comeback from a horrifying injury. Late in a playoff hockey game in Grand Falls last season, Brown suffered a severe eye injury after a battle for the puck in front of the net.
“As he tried to lift my stick he just kind of missed it, followed through pretty hard, directly into my eye,” said Brown. “Basically what happened was my eye just popped.”
He dropped to the ice and put his hands on his face.
“It was just blood leaking out into my hands,” he said. “My adrenaline was just pumping. I was in such shock that I didn’t really feel it. As soon as it happened the first thing I thought of was am I going to be blind.”
Brown had suffered a torn retina and a shattered cornea. The doctor compared it to wearing glasses, with shattered lenses.
Through the summer, Brown went through six surgeries, multiple hospitals and specialists, and countless hours of recovery. He did most of his treatments in Quebec City, and spent two weeks in a hospital bed.
“I couldn’t turn lights on, couldn’t watch TV. I would get massive, massive headaches,”said Brown. “I was so used to just going, going, going and then sitting and doing nothing for four months was pretty crazy for me.”
In mid-July, Brown was given the go-ahead by doctors to engage in physical activity again. With the OK to play, he never looked back. Brown looked to play soccer, a sport he had played a lot growing up.
Despite the odds, he rounded up his cleats and went to work, but with only one fully functioning eye, Brown had to adjust.
“When it first happened, my depth perception was way off. You could hold something out in front of me, I would try to reach for it, and completely miss it. It was kind of funny actually.”
Brown quickly learned how to play with his head on a swivel, and over time, his left eye got stronger. By late August, about a month after getting cleared, he defeated the odds, by making the soccer team.
Now he’s trying to take his recent stumbling block in stride, keep his head up and look forward.
“To me it’s something I can overcome. I felt good playing soccer. It’s something I felt I was doing well with, but next year if everything goes well, maybe I can try to play a sport for my school again,” said Brown. “People are dealt with different situations in their lives that are setbacks, and for me it’s just a setback I have to deal with.”