Wildcats hockey assistant coach Desmond has eye-opening weekend
Photo courtesy of Natalie Hannah
Wildcat hockey third-year assistant coach Larry Desmond knows how to deal with physical pain. Desmond, 62, had to get about 100 stitches in his face during his college hockey days playing for Harvard’s NCAA Division I program.
However, the scariest moment in Desmond’s hockey career came last weekend, while the team was in Tempe to face ASU. After a doctor discovered retina tears in his right eye, Desmond had no choice but to have surgery performed in Phoenix.
Had he not, Desmond may have been blinded for life in his right eye.
The Daily Wildcat: When did you first know there was a problem with your sight?
Desmond: I got on the ice [Friday morning], and it was like a gray veil covering my right eye and I couldn’t see very much at all through it. So I stayed on the side during practice, and I just tossed the pucks back because I could still see with my other eye. I was told it wasn’t something I should fool around with, but I went to the [Friday night] game anyway because I could see out of one eye and I wasn’t in any kind of pain.
When did you decide to go see a doctor?
I got up the next morning and thought, “Well, I got time.” So I ran over to the ER in Scottsdale[, Ariz.] and they put me through a bunch of tests. The doctor said he’d like me to go see an optometrist. He told me I had some bleeding in my eye. But [the optometrist] said, “I only look at the front of the eye. I’d like you to make one more stop and see a retinal specialist to look at the back of the eye.”
So you had to see a third doctor?
Yes, and the third doctor looked at my eye and said, “Oh my gosh, you have a couple tears in your retina.” He said, “You’re bleeding, so we can do one of two things — normally, we use a laser, but because of all the blood in there already, which is keeping you from seeing, we do this freezing thing.”
What was your initial reaction?
I asked if I could just let all the blood drain out and wait until I get back to Tucson and the doctor said, “No, this is an emergency, and we need to do it now.” He told me if my retina becomes detached, I could possibly lose sight in my right eye. So I did it right in his office, and it took about an hour or two.
How has your eye healed since the surgery?
I was told I couldn’t do anything for at least 10 days — no hockey, no workouts, no alcohol. I’m probably at 25 percent, so I’m not going to be able to go to Liberty, and I don’t know about the following weekend. I’m going to see the doctor in three weeks. It’s depending [on] how I feel because I got one eye, and the other eye is improving slowly, but it’s almost swollen shut and looks pretty gruesome. It looks a little bit like Halloween came early for me [laughs].
What have you missed most about being away from coaching the team?
We have a really improved team this year, and I think we’re going to have a lot of success, so I want to be a part of it. It’s a fun family feeling we have here, and [head] coach [Sean] Hogan runs a really nice program. All the kids have questions for coach [Dave] Dougall and I, and our answers are always, “Hogan hockey.” So, we explain to them where they’re supposed to be and how they’re supposed to react to certain situations.
— Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo