PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang spoke Thursday for the first time about his recovery from a stroke he suffered at the beginning of the month.
“For right now, I have some good days and some bad days. I say to many people, I’m going day-by-day to get to 100 percent,” Letang said.
On the morning of Jan. 29, Letang's wife woke up to find him lying on the floor of the couple's bedroom. He was alert but knew something was wrong.
“I was not able to function,” the 26-year-old said.
Letang's mother-in-law is a nurse and was at their home at the time of his stroke, which stopped him from calling 911. He felt better enough later in the day to fly with the Penguins to Los Angeles.
But after a series of tests, it was determined that Letang had a stroke. Telling his family that he had a stroke was the hardest part, Letang said.
“My family is still worried,” he said. “That was the difficult part, when you see your mom crying, and your wife (crying).”
Letang said he has been spending more time than usual with his 1-year-old son and his family.
Dealing with the realization that he had a stroke at 26 has been as difficult for Letang as the physical setbacks.
“It's been mentally very tough,” he said. “It's tough to believe. I'm in the .01 percentage. When I found out, I didn't believe it. I didn't even understand the word. I had to call my wife and ask her what it was. She went to school in English.”
Letang confirmed that he has a hole in his heart, but doctors don't believe an operation is necessary at this time. He has spoken with doctors about the possibility that his history of migraines is connected to the stroke, but his doctors remain unsure if they are related.
He has been given permission to endure light workouts, though he still isn't allowed to lift weights.
“I was surrounded by great doctors,” Letang said. “They took great care of me. All of my questions were answered. I feel like I'm making progress.”
Letang said doctors have assured him that he will be able to play hockey again at some point, taking away his fears that the injury could have been career-threatening.
Whether he will play again this season for the Penguins remains unknown.
“They said that being 26 and having a stroke, it's such a small percentage of people,” Letang said. “The chances that I get back to normal are really good. They kind of reassured me that I will play again.”
Letang's most recent game was Jan. 27 against Buffalo.
Letang has 54 goals and 227 points in 419 games since making his NHL debut with the Penguins during the 2006-07 season.
The Montreal native signed a $58 million, eight-year contract extension last summer.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.