FOR MY BROTHER MICHAEL: A STORY OF HOPE

By Katie Starr

My "little" brother Michael - who of course now towers over me - has always been a sports fanatic. Hockey, golf, soccer, football, and even long-distance running recently (after years of me wearing him down!). A few years ago, he had his first concussion playing football. And then just a couple weeks ago, it happened again. This time, it was while he was playing hockey. He's been off work recovering at my parents' home in Cambridge, Ont. since then. Luckily, Michael lives in London, where he has access to the incredible concussion research and treatment at Western University, which is where we both attended school. That's something our family is really grateful for.

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I think one of the hardest things for my brother with this second concussion is that he knows exactly how long and frustrating the road to recovery can be. But along with the knowledge that this is going to be challenging and lengthy comes absolute and crippling uncertainty. Will he ever be able to play hockey again? Should he play, knowing that a third concussion could be fatal? Hockey - and sports in general - is what he loves. It's honestly what fuels him. Those t-shirts back in the 90s that would say "Eat, sleep, play hockey"? That's my brother's life, always has been. Playing in the various leagues and teams he's a part of gives him so much joy. And to see that potentially be over for him, forever? That breaks my heart.

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We've always teased each other about our specific sports - his first word was "ball", while my complete lack of hand-eye coordination means I'm much happier running and swimming! One small way I can support him is by running the Ottawa marathon for him and other athletes suffering from concussion. I've ran five marathons so far, and I've realized that what gets me through the dreaded "Wall" at Mile 20 is knowing that I'm doing this for something greater than me. When the marathon gets tough, when your legs get tired, you run with your heart. And this year concussion research, treatment and prevention will very much be on my heart.

Samantha Bureau