While Caroline Ducharme is in rehab, her UConn women’s basketball family provides the perfect cure – Hartford Courant

Chrissy Ducharme had a moment of realization as she watched her daughter lying in bed after surgery surrounded by her UConn women’s basketball teammates at The Graduate Hotel in Storrs.

It was late April and Caroline Ducharme had just had surgery on her left hip. Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Mühl, Dorka Juhász, Amari DeBerry and Piath Gabriel (now in the transfer gate) were there with balls and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Mühl received a card wishing Ducharme’s “new” hip a “happy birthday”. Janelle Francisco, associate athletic trainer, was also present at some point that afternoon.

“It was so emotional,” Chrissy Ducharme told the Hartford Courant. “I just quit…and I was like, ‘I get it, honey. That’s it. It’s your family. That’s why you are here.

The Ducharme’s had long planned for Caroline to have the surgery — to repair an injury sustained in high school — after her freshman season. They had planned for her to undergo the procedure at home in a Boston hospital with the same doctor who had performed the same operation on her older sister, Ashley. But after battling through a painful season and developing a close bond with her teammates, Caroline asked her parents if she could have surgery at UConn.

This year, Caroline’s first life away from home was a matter of trust for Chrissy and Todd Ducharme. Trust that their daughter could make her own decisions. Trust that she could play through the pain. Confidence to complete the surgery and rehabilitation process the way she wanted, at UConn facilities under the guidance of the team’s training staff. As Caroline spends every day alongside Juhász, who is nursing a broken left wrist suffered during the NCAA Tournament, it’s clear to them that it was the right choice all along.

“Everyone knows rehab can be tough mentally and physically,” Caroline said. “So I just think [Dorka and I] having each other, kind of helping each other through this and helping to keep our spirits up has been great.

Caroline doesn’t remember exactly when she first injured her hip, although she thinks it may have been her freshman season of high school. The injury progressed over time and was managed with treatment, but it was clear that it would eventually need to be addressed.

When the Ducharme’s met with UConn team orthopedic physician Dr. Michael Joyce before Caroline’s freshman year, they determined she could wait for surgery without any long-term damage.

“Dr. Joyce was awesome,” Todd Ducharme recalled, “and said, ‘Look, unless it’s something you physically can’t go through or it’s so painful you just can’t. play, then we’ll be looking to get the operation. But until then, we’ll see if we can get through the season and do it properly at the end of the season.”

Caroline was never going to admit it was too painful, though. She voiced it after that date, which didn’t surprise her parents. That’s who she is. There’s a certain saying the family has for the 6-foot-2 guard: “She won’t be denied.”

But the hip has nagged and had an effect on Caroline all season, her parents said. Meanwhile, the injuries started piling up for the Huskies. Azzi Fudd and Bueckers both missed big time starting in December, and Aubrey Griffin has been out all season.

Ducharme stepped up to keep the season alive during their absences, averaging 17.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists from Dec. 11 to Feb. 2, including a game-winning shot at DePaul on 26 january. But then Ducharme was hit hard in multiple contests, forcing her out of four games from Feb. 4-11. UConn coach Geno Auriemma was vague about the nature of the injury at the time; a head injury was mentioned at one point, but tests did not show a concussion.

Phone calls home often began by discussing the hip and the pain Caroline was experiencing. These conversations were difficult for Todd and Chrissy, knowing that their daughter was struggling. They repeatedly asked her if she wanted to continue acting, but eventually knew they had to trust her judgment.

“She was like, ‘I’m going to do anything and everything to help this team and no matter how I feel. That’s what I’m going to do,’” Chrissy recalled.

“That’s who she is. … She’s going to find a way, she’s going to find out. She’s going to scrap, she’s so determined. And she loves basketball and she loves this team – she immediately fell in love with all these girls and the coaches and she’s so committed to it.

Even if it had been expensive, thinking about it now, Caroline wouldn’t change her decision.

“It was definitely painful,” Ducharme said. “But I think the way I was able to attack her throughout the season and keep her together to play was really great, and I’m glad I did. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to get me operate before.

While all of their teammates have been visiting families and taking a well-deserved break over the past few weeks, Ducharme and Juhász have been in Storrs to tend to their injuries.

“We feel good,” said Juhász. “We have made a lot of progress. It’s also a little easier to be together because obviously our injuries are completely different, but just to have someone who can go to rehab everyday (with you) can get a bit boring to do the same drills, so it’s good to have one of your teammates there.

The duo have developed a fairly regular routine. They spend 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at UConn facilities working with coaches, coaches and academic staff, spending time with Francisco and athletic performance director Andrea Hudy. The schedule for both players is to return to training with the squad in August, Auriemma said last week.

Neither Ducharme nor Juhász have a car (although it’s not like they could drive anyway with their injuries), so they spend the rest of the time hanging out in their apartments. Nights are reserved for WNBA and NBA games. Ducharme often has two or three screens on at once and will send her parents pictures or call excitedly about something that happened in the W. They especially enjoyed watching her UConn teammates OIivia Nelson-Ododa, on the Los Angeles Sparks, and Evina Westbrook, with the Minnesota Lynx.

They attended an in-person WNBA game Tuesday night, enjoying their first night on the court as the Connecticut Sun took on the Dallas Wings. Juhász had a two-month follow-up with her doctor earlier today and had it removed, although she still plans to wear it whenever she works out.

“The bones are healing very well,” Juhász said. “So for me it’s kind of about getting mobility back, flexing, you know, everything back to normal. And then once I have that, I’m about to be done, and then I can start getting stronger. … I’ll probably be ready sooner than I think, but I just have to get the strength back, that confidence and build the muscle around the bone and stuff.

Ducharme has also taken a step lately, going from two crutches to one. The current goal of her rehabilitation is to activate the muscles, so she did movement in the pool. She was able to put more weight on her left leg, even when doing small squats.

Although the rehab process is often repetitive and tedious, Ducharme is beginning to feel more and more for the day when she will be back to full health.

“Once I could move,” Ducharme said, “it was kind of like, ‘Okay, I can kind of see the light at the end.'”

Lila Bromberg can be reached at [email protected] and @LilaBBromberg on Twitter.