March 12, 2009

Snider: 'I Was Lucky I Didn't Die'

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Philadelphia Wings all-star Geoff Snider, hospitalized two weeks ago after suffering a fractured trachea, expects to return to the floor in April.
© Cory Shannon

Geoff Snider usually relies on his exceptional physical strength and inner resolve to win lacrosse games. Fortunately, he had plenty in reserve to survive a nightmarish fractured trachea that could have cost him his life.

Recovering in Calgary and easing himself back into his day job at Edge School, Snider expects to return to the floor for Philadelphia April 4-5 for a series with New York.

In the meantime, the three-time National Lacrosse League all-star and league-leading faceoff specialist described his face-to-face encounter with his own mortality.

The harrowing experience started in the first quarter of a Feb. 27 game at Edmonton when he caught a stick in the neck.

"I was going to set a pick in an offensive situation. and I got hit with an errant stick," Snider said. "I don't think it was anything intentional. If it was something intentional, I certainly would have been looking to take care of it."

As the game wore on, Snider's neck and chest felt sore.

"I think I generally have a pretty high threshold for that kind of stuff," he said. "I did get fatigued, though. I wasn't getting as much oxygen in my system. I found out later I was putting pressure on my heart and lungs. I played well. I faced off well. I didn't have the greatest game, but I got the job done."

After the 14-9 Wings win, he was examined by a physician at Rexall Place and cleared to travel with the team to Portland for a game the following day.

Throughout the journey to and through the airport, his symptoms began to increase. His voice was altered due to the pressure on his vocal cords, and he found it increasingly difficult to swallow.

"I couldn't get comfortable and I was having trouble breathing," Snider said. "It was sort of stupid getting on the plane, but we didn't really realize it was that bad."

When the plane landed, Snider was taken to a Portland hospital and diagnosed with a fractured trachea.

"I was never worried until I reached the hospital, then it really hit home when they were deciding whether to put me in intensive care or 24-hour observation," Snider said. "Then, the doctor told me I was lucky I didn't die.

"You're scared; you're lying in a hospital bed wondering. I never thought my life was in danger, but when they explained to me that it was, it certainly was a pretty terrifying and humbling experience."

The rare injury was not displaced, so surgery was not required, but rest was essential -- not only for the swelling to subside, but to make sure no more oxygen was leaking into Snider's chest and throat.

His teammates played the next day, falling to Portland 12-10. While they stayed away, out of concern for his need to rest, LumberJax all-star Brodie Merrill popped in for a visit.

"It was actually funny," Snider said. "He had to sneak his way into the hospital. It was nice of him to come by and say 'Hello'. There are so many great guys in the NLL and the MLL [Major League Lacrosse]."

After the Wings returned to Philadelphia, Wings trainer Jeanie Subach stayed behind with Snider, who spent three days and two nights hospitalized.

For the next five days at home in Calgary, he was uncomfortable and unable to work at Edge School, where he is recruiting student-athletes for the field lacrosse program being implemented in the fall.

Snider was looking forward to his third all-star appearance, regardless, but it had significant import to him because of the Denver location. Snider was an All-American at the University of Denver and he plays in the summer for the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse.

At least he was feeling well enough to watch the game online.

"It was a great show," he said. "Certainly, I was disappointed that I wasn't able to be part of it with all the great players there. It looked like Denver put on a great show as they were expected to do."

While Snider counts his blessings, he's looking forward to a strong second half by the Wings, who started the season 2-5 but have won two of their last three games, coinciding with the return from injury of 2008 NLL Most Valuable Player Athan Iannucci.

"We've got a great staff. They're putting us in the best position to win," Snider said. "Our guys are coming together, experiencing some success. I don't think my absence will affect their mentality. We have guys who will step up all over and showcase their abilities.

"As much as it sucks being out and as much as it sucks watching from the sidelines, there are some great players you'll hear about real quick because they'll have a chance to step up."

Snider predicted that defenseman Kyle Sweeney, an injury replacement for the all-star game, and forward Rob Van Beek will be particularly productive as the Wings start the second half against Minnesota on Saturday.

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