Former Battlefords North Stars player Nick Fountain is well on the road to a full recovery after a health scare this spring.
Fountain needed emergency brain surgery after suffering an arteriovenous malformation hemorrhage while playing in a recreational hockey tournament in Edmonton in April.
Fountain was rushed to University of Alberta Hospital to undergo surgery, which included removal of a portion of his skull.
Today, he is home in Wainwright, Alta., where he continues his recovery and rehabilitation. In speaking to the News-Optimistrecently, Fountain said he was feeling good.
“I’m feeling really good physically and cognitively, too,” said Fountain.
His recovery has been a long one. He was in acute care at the U of A Hospital, and then on April 26 moved to the Glenrose Rehabilitative Hospital. Getting admitted to Glenrose was an important step forward in his recovery, he says.
“My left side was a little bit weaker from where the bleed was in my brain,” said Fountain.
To get his strength back he underwent intensive physiotherapy.
“It’s a full day of physio, different kind of therapies you go through. You’re busy, you’re keeping busy, it’s hard work. You do get tired, but it feels good. You feel like you’re contributing to your recovery.”
Now, he is back home in Wainwright. “Just being at home makes you feel that much better,” said Fountain.
He is still doing some physio in Wainwright, but his efforts are now focused on trying to get his strength back to where it was before.
“It’s a lot of fun stuff to do actually, so it’s more back to the normal routine that I would be doing in the summer before.”
There are still medical procedures ahead for Fountain. He is due for surgery July 3 to replace the portion of his skull that was removed earlier during the emergency surgery.
“It’s not a big surgery, it’s actually an elective surgery,” he said. Still, he looks forward to it as one more step towards his full recovery.
Through his time in the hospital and rehab, he had the support of his family. His parents, grandparents, brother and sister and other family members were there visiting on a regular basis.
“I wasn’t alone through the whole process, that’s for sure,” said Fountain.
He has also had the support and well wishes from the Battlefords North Stars organization, where he played junior hockey in 2013-15.
Fountain has good memories of his time in the Battlefords playing for the North Stars.
“I absolutely loved it,” said Fountain. “I still come back in the summer, and I have my friends that I’ll have for my whole life.”
He has also kept in close contact with those from that team, including coach Kevin Hasselberg, as well as his billet family.
His favourite thing about playing in the Battlefords, said Fountain, was the community. “I absolutely loved living there and going to the rink and just being out in the community, it was one of the best parts about it.”
Since news broke of his brain surgery, Fountain was overwhelmed with well wishes from people and friends in the Battlefords pulling for his full recovery.
“Whether it’s people that are still involved in the North Stars or just overall the community, I can’t thank everybody there enough for how supportive they’ve been for me. It’s a really good feeling to know people are that nice, and yeah, I’m very grateful and so is my family.”
One thing Fountain must deal with is the reality that his hockey playing days are now over.
Since graduating from the Battlefords North Stars, he had played college hockey for the Red Deer College Kings the last three seasons. But Fountain says he is no longer able to withstand the impact of hard contact sports.
“As far as contact hockey, those days are over because when they put the skull piece back in, it’s just never going to be as strong as it was before,” said Fountain.
“It probably would be a little risky to get back to contact hockey, so those days are behind me, that’s for sure.”
Fountain admits the end of his playing days is difficult to come to terms with.
“It’s really tough. You always want to be able to end on your own terms,” said Fountain.
“But there are lots of avenues you can be involved in hockey, it’s more than just playing, too.”
Fountain says he would like to stay involved in the hockey world, possibly as a coach or something else.
“I definitely could see myself doing that, it’d be great to just be involved in a different way.” It’s something he’s always thought about doing after he was done playing, he said.
Fountain is also focused on going back to school and completing his political science. He still has two years left towards that. Most likely, he’ll be at the University of Alberta, but he’s also thought of enrolling at their Augustana campus in Camrose.
Further down the road, Fountain has his sights set on law school.
But first, he would still have to write the LSAT and continue with his undergrad.
Fountain says his recent health challenges haven’t derailed his long-term education goals.
“I’m not going to change my plans on that. Some stuff might be a little tougher than it was before, but I still want to pursue that, that’s for sure.”
Fountain also wants to thank those in the Battlefords and elsewhere who have been sending well wishes his way as he moves toward a full recovery.
“I can’t express how grateful I am for how nice everyone has been to me,” said Fountain. “It’s been amazing and I’ve got a lot of ‘thank yous’ still to give to people. I’m just overwhelmed with how nice everyone’s been.”