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Penguins' Letang reveals scary details of stroke

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 12:42 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang speaks to the media on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, for the first time since suffering a stroke in January.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, still unsure if he will play again this season, shed light on the details of his stroke.

It was a scary time.

On the morning of Jan. 29, Letang's wife woke up and found him lying on the floor of the couple's bedroom. He was alert but knew something was wrong.

“I was not able to function,” he said.

Letang's mother-in-law is a nurse and was at their home at the time of the incident, which stopped him from calling 911. He felt well enough later in the day to fly with the Penguins to Los Angeles.

But after a series of tests, it was determined Letang had a stroke. He said he still is having “good days and bad days” and is still dealing with fatigue.

Letang looked noticeably thinner than usual. He recently was given permission to work out, though he isn't skating and continues to take blood-thinning medication. He still isn't allowed to lift weights.

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 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 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.

“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 stroke 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 had scored 10 goals, which matches his career high, despite playing only 34 games this season. Letang signed an eight-year, $58 million extension last summer.

“Obviously, we are a much better hockey team with him,” left wing Tanner Glass said. “He's special. But right now, his health is what's important.”

Although he said many hurdles remain before he can be cleared to play this season, Letang, who earlier missed three weeks with an elbow infection, hasn't ruled out a return to the lineup at some point this spring.

His next big appointment with doctors is in a couple of weeks.

“Not such a good season for me,” said Letang, managing a smile. “Not very lucky. Honestly, if I have the chance to come back this year, it's going to be great.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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