Former Hill-Murray hockey player opens up on brain injury recovery

- Duke Pieper was just 15, a freshman at Hill-Murray School playing on the varsity hockey team, when he developed a bleeding blood clot on his brain stem.

Now seven years later, he is testament to survival.

"Something just didn't feel right," said Pieper. "The doctors at the time actually told me that I had about a five percent chance of living through the surgery because it was that rare."

In fact, he had 15 surgeries. An infection on his spinal cord temporarily paralyzed him.

"He was in the hospital for nine months, most of that time was spent in ICU,” said Liz Pieper, Duke’s mother.

Through therapy and determination, Duke Pieper gained the strength to return to the ice in a hockey uniform.

"It felt amazing,” said Duke Pieper. “I mean I couldn't do what I used to be able to do, so that was kind of a Debbie Downer at that point. It felt amazing just to feel the wind in your face.”

The wind has never knocked him down. Now, Duke Pieper is an author.  His book I'm Alive, is not just a comeback story, it's a story about living life.

"He is a survivor and he is an inspiration and he wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for his determination, and his strength and his ‘I can do’ attitude," said Liz Pieper.

It's an attitude Duke Pieper will bring to this Saturday's Walk for Thought.

"Everybody around you anyways has gone through the situation that you've kind of been facing, dealing with brain injury anyways. And they've all been going through the same type of deals that you personally have faced or already have faced," he said.

For more information about Saturday’s Walk for Thought, click here.

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