DeFino survives hardship with grace

Atholton: Junior third baseman has endured her share of pain, including an operation following a team trip to Italy this spring.


High Schools

April 22, 2001|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Stacy DeFino is a survivor.

The 17-year-old Atholton junior has overcome a lifetime of physical hardships - a bicycle accident in third grade that shattered her face, an emergency appendectomy in fifth grade and surgery three years apart to her right shoulder and left knee.

And then last week.

A day after returning from a school-sponsored trip to Italy, doctors discovered a tumor that led to the removal of her right ovary and Fallopian tube.

To her credit, and that of her parents Judi and Mike, DeFino has taken it all in stride.

"Some people out there have it 10 times worse than I do," said DeFino, a first-team All-County third baseman last season for the defending county champion Raiders. "I have a degree of bad luck, but it could be a lot worse."

The pain began during the last night in Florence, Italy.

The next day, DeFino was in Rome to begin a three-day stay that would culminate the nine-day adventure over spring break.

While the others in her group, including softball teammates Aubrey Barrett and Sarah Costa, played tourist, DeFino's stomach pain increased, and she spent most of the time in her hotel room.

"They treated me for being hydrated, but the pain kept coming," DeFino said.

Did she see a doctor?

"No," she said. "I didn't want to see one over there."

DeFino and the rest of the students and chaperones flew into Newark, N.J., last Monday around 1 p.m. Everyone waited seven hours for the connecting flight home. Everyone, that is, except DeFino.

Mike DeFino met his daughter in Newark and drove her home. Stacy took a shower, then went with Judi to the emergency room at Laurel Regional Hospital.

Stacy remained at the hospital overnight, against her wishes. She wanted to go to school Tuesday, and didn't want to miss practice.

While a battery of tests found nothing wrong, Stacy's white blood cell count was high. Judi insisted that Stacy stay in the hospital, even though she was told it would be OK if Stacy went home.

"They wanted me to come back the next day, but my mom wouldn't let me leave without knowing what was wrong," Stacy said.

Stacy took a sonogram around noon on Tuesday, and the family learned the results at 2:30 p.m. Two hours later Stacy was in surgery.

Judi DeFino said doctors found a tumor on Stacy's right ovary, and that because of the lack of blood, gangrene had developed. The ovary and connecting Fallopian tube were removed.

Stacy said the doctor told her the left side ovary and fallopian tube are healthy, allowing her to have children.

"I look at the positive," Stacy said. "It could have been worse."

Stacy, who left the hospital Wednesday night and was at Centennial on Friday cheering on her teammates to a 4-0 victory, plans to be back playing by the playoffs (May 11) or earlier.

"I'm usually one that recovers quickly," said DeFino. "The doctor said it's up to my body. So whenever I feel I'm ready, I can come back and play."

Overcoming physical obstacles is nothing new for Stacy. In third grade, a bicycle accident shattered the right side of her face.

"Basically the whole right side of my face was on the left side. That's what everyone told me," Stacy said.

Judi didn't recognize Stacy at first. "I walked right by her in the ER," Judi said.

Two years later, playing in a softball game against a team that had Barrett on it, Stacy fell to the outfield ground in pain while chasing a ball. Hours later, she had her appendix removed.

In seventh grade, Stacy had three screws placed in her right shoulder to stabilize the major tendons.

Last year, Stacy injured her left knee playing on the JV volleyball team. The doctor performed arthroscopic surgery, thinking it was a torn medial collateral ligament. Instead, Stacy said the cartilage had either been worn or torn away, and that an artificial insert was needed.

Through it all, Stacy has become an expert at rehabilitation.

"Stacy has a great work ethic," said Randy Rocha, her personal trainer for the last five years and the director of sports medicine at Metro Orthopedics and Sports Therapy in Silver Spring.

Returning to third base is certainly a big motivator for DeFino. But the bigger picture has not gone unnoticed.

"I'm disappointed because I'm not going to be able to play softball [for now], but I'm thankful that they found the tumor and got it out."

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