Nick Fountain is usually heavy into his off-season training regime by this point in the summer.
This year, the former RDC Kings hockey player has been engaged in a much tougher training program since he suffered an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation while playing rec hockey which caused a severe blood clot in his brain on April 6.
Fountain, 23, went through extensive surgery to repair the damage and was in a medically induced coma for 10-days to allow the swelling to come down. He was only recently allowed to leave the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and return to his family home in Wainright.
“When you’re there, it’s a full day of therapies whether it’s cognitive or physical. Those six weeks I was busy every day. Working on gaining back some of the stuff that was affected by the AVM,” said Fountain, who will celebrate his 24th birthday later this month.
“I was lucky and fortunate to get there quick and early in the recovery process. It helps with mitigating the damage because my left side was a lot weaker. I had to learn how to walk again in a different way.”
It will be a long road to full health for the former hockey player, but he said he’s feeling 100 per cent at the moment and looks forward to the challenge of his rehabilitation. One thing that won’t include, is a return to the ice. Although he is considering other non-contact sports he can play.
“Back to working out like normal, like I would be before. Came a long way from just getting up and learning how to walk properly again. Physically I feel back to 100 per cent,” he said.
“Definitely tough when you don’t really know– early in the process when you don’t know what the end is going to look like. It’s a relief that’s for sure.”
On July 3, Fountain will have a surgery to replace a part of his skull that was removed in his original surgery.
Fountain said through everything it was the support of former teammates, friends and family who took the time to reach out after the accident that’s kept him positive and motivated.
“Waking up to all the messages and visitors as well … finding out who did visit when I was sleeping,” said Fountain. “It’s been amazing. My hockey team in Red Deer and the whole (RDC) athletic department, everybody at the college there has been amazing. Can’t thank everybody enough. It does make you feel really good.”
Fountain spent parts of four junior seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, with each of the Lloydminster Bobcats and Battlefords North Stars. He also suited up briefly (six games) for the Winkler Flyers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the Abitibi Eskimos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. In 2015 he joined the RDC Kings and played the last three seasons in Red Deer.
Fountain knows the challenge he’s stared down over the last several months will be one that carries valuable lessons for the rest of his life.
“Just going to work out and get in the best shape I can physically. I lost like 20 pounds in ICU. Be nice to gain a little bit of that weight back. Probably didn’t hurt me to lose some weight,” he said with a laugh.
“I’ve got some work in the gym to be back to where I want to be so that will be good. Gives me something to focus and work towards this summer.”
Fountain said his new focus is completing his political science degree at the University of Alberta and getting his law degree when he goes back to school in January.