Amber Gray underwent left shoulder surgery July 2 at St. Mary's Medical Center to repair her posterior capsule and labrum.
Nobody knew at the time that the procedure essentially would save the University of Tennessee women's basketball player's life.
Post-surgery complications ensued, resulting in tests and the discovery of an aneurysm in the brain that was beginning to hemorrhage, said Gray's mother, Tonya Carter.
Gray, 19, underwent a 12 1/2- hour surgical procedure last week at the University of Cincinnati's Neuroscience Institute. She has since been moved to a rehabilitation center and has started down the road to recovery.
'A lot of people are born with aneurysms and they don't find out until it's too late,'' Carter said Monday. 'Honestly, this could've been a situation where it could've been too little, too late.'
Carter said Gray, a high school All-American from West Chester, Ohio, was moved to Cincinnati not because it was close to home but rather for the institute's expertise. Carter and family members were given regular updates during the marathon surgery, which started Monday, July 20, and lasted into the early morning hours the next day. Still, the anxiety and uncertainty persisted.
'You really don't know what to expect,'' Carter said. 'They don't know what to expect.'
Gray woke up on her own after the surgery and, according to Carter, said she was thirsty and asked, 'Where's my mom?'
'This is someone who has an amazing spirit,' said Carter of her daughter, who played in 27 games as a freshman last season for the Lady Vols. 'When I feel like I'm losing control, she'll look at me and say, ‘It's going to be OK.' '
Carter said her daughter helped set a light-hearted tone for a post-surgery visit from Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt by saying, 'I'll open (my eyes) but I don't want to look straight ahead because I'll be looking into the eyes of my coach.'
And when she entered the Drake Rehabilitation Center in Cincinnati, Carter said that her daughter stated her intentions clearly: 'My goal is to get up and get out of here. Whatever it takes.'
While Carter is encouraged, she said there's no timetable for the recovery.
Carter referred to Gray's father, Carlton, in saying: 'As her parents, we were praying for her life. Now we're praying for quality of life.'
Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288.