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New York Islanders Prove Some Things Are More Important Than Rivalries

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Karen Richards woke up after brain surgery groggy, tired and surrounded by hockey players.

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The 15-year-old from Boston is a diehard Bruins fan. But on Thursday, March 12, five members of the New York Islanders stood around her. Karen didn’t mind.

Photo via Karen Richards

The teen lives with a roster of diagnoses including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), craniocervical instability and gastroparesis. She’d recently transferred to North Shore-LIJ in Long Island, New York, to have a reservoir placed in her brain. When a few Islanders players, who’d been visiting the hospital, heard she was a huge hockey fan, they put team rivalries aside and paid Karen a visit.

“It was really nice that they came because sometimes the hospital can get dull. It’s a big, scary, loud place.”[Their visit] was something that made the hospital a little less scary and a little less cold and lonely,” Karen told The Mighty in an email. “I’ve really learned to appreciate the little things with my chronic illnesses, and the Islanders’ visit was definitely something that, although small for them, meant a lot for me.”

Hopefully, a meet-and-greet with her favorite Bruin players, Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chára, will be in her future. For now, Karen works every day to remain as positive as possible while facing multiple conditions.

“It’s hard to give specific advice for this kind of thing. Each person really has to figure out their own ways of dealing with their illnesses in an effective way,” Karen told The Mighty. “My general advice would be, fight as hard as you can, and never let a disease steal away those special moments in your life.”

Originally published: March 20, 2015
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