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Blood clot changes everything for Hamlin

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | DECEMBER 15, 2009 7:30 AM

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She is experiencing a constant stabbing pain in her right leg.

Fast forward a month later, and Hamlin is no longer competing alongside her teammates. Although she’s still a leader on the bench, she can’t play.

Instead, her name now appears on the injury report as being “out for the season after having a blood clot removed from her right leg.”

What was eventually discovered to be a serious clot started on Nov. 2 as what the 6-3 center thought was a muscle-related injury — perhaps a groin pull. Hamlin, the only senior on the Iowa women’s basketball team this season, practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday that week.

The pain quickly went away after running through drills for a few minutes. But after Wednesday, it got much worse.

“Thursday, it bothered me all through practice,” Hamlin said. “Thursday night, it was so bad that I could hardly walk. It just kind of steadily progressed until it got really bad.”

On Friday, Nov. 6, Hamlin had X-rays taken. She said doctors wanted to make sure she didn’t have a stress fracture or something similar. But the scans didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary, so doctors concluded Hamlin had been experiencing a deep muscle strain.

Once again, things got worse.

On Nov. 8, the day of Iowa’s exhibition game against Washburn, Hamlin’s lower right leg had turned a vastly different color from her left leg. It now had a strong, reddish tint.

To learn what was wrong, Hamlin went to the emergency room around noon that day.

“Good thing I did,” she said.

Put through blood tests and an ultrasound, doctors found a severe blood clot extending from Hamlin’s upper right leg to her right calf.

She was admitted to a regular hospital room for two nights. A couple days later, she was given the option to enter intensive care and undergo a serious treatment that would see two tubes placed in her leg to disperse enzymes that would help dissolve the clot.

The Douglass, Kan., native remained in the ICU until Nov. 18. The clot had gradually disappeared, and doctors removed the tubes from Hamlin’s leg.

“I tried to stay pretty calm for the most part. I think I was probably the calmest of my whole family,” she said. “Not being able to play basketball was kind of hard, but at the same time, they kind of give you a choice between life and basketball.

“Obviously, life’s a pretty easy choice.”

A new role

Hamlin achieved her goal of being on the bench on Nov. 18 when her team faced then-No. 19 Kansas in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes battled the vastly more experienced Jayhawks for the entire 40 minutes, even leading by three points with 6:41 remaining in the game.

Iowa eventually fell, 66-55.

But the game meant much more than that for Hamlin. It meant she was able to rejoin her teammates.
“It meant a lot just because we spend so much time together, and we’re really close friends. We all care about each other,” Hamlin said. “[Their] welcoming me back to the team was nice.”

The lanky post player had figured to be a key part of the Hawkeye attack. Not only was she expected to start for head coach Lisa Bluder, but she was expected to mentor 6-5 freshman Morgan Johnson.

Not able to join her understudy on the floor, Hamlin succeeded anyway.

“[Hamlin] is still a leader,” Bluder said. “She’s specifically put Morgan underneath her wing. She helps Morgan out with seeing different things on the floor. When it comes to time-outs, she can help her out with that, or when it comes to halftime, she can give her some pieces of advice that I know she values.”

So far, things are working out. Johnson, who was named Kansas City Star Scholar Athlete of the Year as a senior in high school, has done more than just meet expectations. Through 10 games, Johnson is averaging 10.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per contest.

But just ask the rest of Hamlin’s teammates, such as sophomore point guard Kamille Wahlin — it doesn’t take long to see Hamlin has contributed more than her expertise.

“One day she was with us and the next day she was going into the hospital,” Wahlin said. “It’s just kind of a realization and puts things into perspective, knowing that every day is a blessing to be on the court. We just have to take advantage of each day because you just don’t know what could happen the next.”


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