Last July, former Gophers softball star Sara Groenewegen spent 10 days in a medically induced coma, battling legionnaire’s disease, a severe form of pneumonia.
Her chances of ever pitching for Team Canada again seemed grim. On the first day of her recovery, she tried standing with a walker, lasting just 10 seconds.
Now, less than a year later, Groenewegen is back to 100 %, getting ready to lead Canada into the Pan-Am Games this August, still with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“Yes! I am back and recovered,” Groenewegen said via text. “Very grateful for the speedy recovery. Honestly, I was doing some reflecting the other day to think that almost a year ago I couldn’t walk and wouldn’t anticipate a comeback.”
Groenewegen, 24, was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at age 9, while growing up in the Vancouver area, but she flourished in multiple sports. She became a three-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year for the Gophers. A two-way threat, she became the program’s all-time strikeout leader and smashed 36 home runs during her college career.
At the 2015 Pan-Am Games, Groenewegen led Canada to an upset win over Team USA in the gold medal games with an eight-inning, seven-strikeout, one-run masterpiece.
She was getting ready to head to last summer’s world championships when she came down with flu symptoms. When her fever and blood sugar spiked, she experienced severe back pain and was taken to the emergency room, waking 10 days later.
“I’m just thankful I’m OK now and everything is fine,” Groenewegen told the Star Tribune last October. “Those 10 days could have gone a lot worse.”
Groenewegen knew her recovery would take time, and she’s grateful to be one of 15 players Softball Canada picked for the Pan-Am Games, which run from Aug. 4-10 in Lima, Peru. That will be followed with the Olympic qualifying tournament, from Aug 25-Sept. 1 in Surrey, B.C.
“Today I stand as a member of the national team again!” Groenewegen texted. “Very proud.”