Varsity Letter

Varsity Letter: A hit on the head and no error

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By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 26, 2009

There are Thanksgivings that evoke general thanks, and there are Thanksgivings that evoke specific thanks. For the Ganey family of College Park, this year it will most certainly be the latter.

And if in the middle of the table there is a softball instead of a Butterball, that will be just fine.

"Softball saved Lindsey's life," Lori Ganey said, talking about her daughter.

Here's what happened on the afternoon of April 23 at Riverdale Field:

Lindsey Ganey, then a freshman first baseman at St. John's College High School, was playing second base because the team was short on middle infielders. An Elizabeth Seton player hit a fly ball behind the bag. Shortstop Mary Liddi and Ganey each headed in that direction. The ball caromed off the tip of Liddi's glove and struck Ganey between the eyes.

As such incidents go, there was little drama. The bloodless blow dizzied Ganey, so she left the game to ice the injury. Her tears dried as the innings wore on. Later that day, as a precaution, she went to Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham for testing.

Good news and bad news. The ball to the head did no damage. The CT scan, however, turned up something.

"I got hit in the head," Lindsey Ganey said recently, "and the next thing I knew, I had a brain tumor."

Ganey underwent 10 hours of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital a few weeks later and this month was cleared to resume playing softball. She earned honors with distinction during the most recent St. John's grading period. She's thriving.

If St. John's pitcher Elizabeth Donatelli had thrown her pitch in a slightly different spot or at a slightly different speed, or if the Seton batter had hit the ball somewhere else on the field, or if Liddi or Ganey had made a clean catch, or if Ganey had been in her usual spot at first base, or if the ball had not glanced just so off Liddi's glove, or if Seton Athletic Director Candy Cage had not strongly urged the Ganeys to go to the hospital for tests, then Lindsey Ganey would still be walking around with a cavernous malformation in her brain, an abnormal growth of blood vessels larger than a golf ball.

"We're lucky that it happened when it happened, where it happened, on that field at that time," Lori Ganey said. "I'm not able to go to every one of her games, and I was at that game. Maybe if I wasn't at that game, she wouldn't have gone" to the hospital. "I don't know."

Lindsey Ganey recounted the story at the family's home with her mom; her dad, Tom; brother Jake, a DeMatha freshman; and her "unbiological brothers," friends Nathan and Matthew Smith, twin DeMatha sophomores who live down the street.


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