When Pascal Dupuis started having discomfort in his chest on Monday, deep down, he knew what was causing it.
That’s because he had the exact same feeling in January of this year. The Penguins forward was diagnosed with a blood clot shortly after suffering torn ligaments in his knee. Dupuis was put on blood thinners for six months while recovering from surgery and rehabilitating his knee, and was cleared to return to the lineup in October.
The way he felt Monday was eerily similar.
“It felt the exact same way it felt before,” Dupuis said. “Just didn’t want to believe it.”
After Dupuis informed the Penguins medical staff of his discomfort, team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas ordered a CT scan and ultrasound that confirmed Dupuis’ worst fears – he had another blood clot.
“Pascal had a blood clot in his leg that traveled to his lung,” Dr. Vyas said. “In medical terms, that is a deep vein thrombosis resulting in a pulmonary embolism. This is the second such incident that we know of for Pascal. The treatment is at least six months of blood thinners, during which time he will not be able to play hockey. Medically, Pascal is stable. A series of a battery of tests are still pending.
“It’s extremely important (we caught this now). This could be a life-threatening situation if left untreated. … We’re lucky. Pascal is lucky.”
Dupuis, 35, is known for being a family man who adores his wife, Carole-Lyne, and four kids, Maeva, Zoe, Lola and Kody. They’re the most important people in his life, and right now Dupuis’ focus is on them, not hockey.
“Hockey’s definitely second in my mind right now,” Dupuis said. “They’re the most important thing in my life right now, my family at home. Just got to be healthy for them.”
While Dupuis is on blood thinners, he will be unable to play hockey as it is a contact sport and there is a risk of bleeding with the blood thinners. But as Dr. Vyas put it, “he can do pretty much everything else” to work out and stay in shape during that time.
Right now, it’s too soon to say whether Dupuis will be able to play hockey again. Dr. Vyas said they did not have an answer for that at this time.
“It’s kind of hard for me to answer that question right now,” Dupuis said while fighting back tears when asked if he was optimistic he could play again. “Not all the results came back. But I’ll put the effort into it.”
It was an emotionally overwhelming day in what’s been a difficult 11 months for Dupuis, starting when he injured his knee in December, 2013. Dupuis was diagnosed with the first blood clot in January, 2014 before undergoing surgery to repair his ligaments. After having the operation, Dupuis spent the next few months rehabbing his knee while on blood thinners.
After finally being cleared to return to the lineup in the Penguins’ season opener on Oct. 9 vs. Anaheim – where he scored a career-high 4 points – Dupuis had a scare on Oct. 16 vs. Dallas when he was hit in the back of the neck with a shot and had to be removed from the ice on a stretcher. Now just a month later, he’s dealing with this scary situation.
“The hockey stuff, the knee, the puck in the neck, this is all stuff that you come back from,” Dupuis said. “You’re a hockey player, you’re supposed to come back from that stuff. It’s the risk you take as a hockey player to be on the ice, you know? But the other stuff, the clot, the lungs, it has nothing to do with hockey. It’s life-threatening. You have to think of yourself and your family and your loved ones before hockey comes to mind.”
No matter what happens, his teammates will be there for him, as they were on Wednesday.
Despite the Penguins having an off day, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz all came to the arena to be by Dupuis’ side and support their friend as he delivered the difficult news.
“It's tough right now,” Malkin said. “My message to him is to spend more time with his family. Life is still good. We all support him.”
Most of the players found out just 15 minutes before the conference started, when head coach Mike Johnston sent them a text. Otherwise, they probably all would have been there – that’s how much Dupuis means to this group.
“He’s a big part of our team,” Letang said. “He’s always been there for me, since the day he got on the team. He’s been a model, an older guy that I looked up to the whole time. He’s a great guy in the dressing room. Everybody loves him. He’s one of our big leaders. I think it’s the least we could do for him is to be here.”
Kunitz may have explained it best when talking about how important Dupuis is and what he brings.
“I think you just look at that first game that he played and I think he ended up with four points,” Kunitz said. “The energy that he brought and the built-up energy that he’d been missing and wanting to play so bad – that’s what I think everybody remembers of ‘Duper,’ is being able to go 100 miles an hour and fit into all situations.
“But the locker room is where you really miss him. The guy on the planes and hanging out at dinners and making fun of situations when we’re not feeling as confident as we need to as a group. I think that’s the friendship part of what Duper brings to the team and the leadership stuff.”
While they’re certainly going to miss him these next six months, Pascal Dupuis the human being comes before Pascal Dupuis the hockey player.
“Moving forward, the biggest and most important thing is the well-being of Pascal Dupuis,” associate general manager Jason Botterill said. “He will have the entire support of our organization of our medical staff moving forward.”
Pascal Dupuis at the podium
Team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas with Dupuis
Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz came to show their support for Dupuis
Dupuis with head coach Mike Johnston