There was a look to their mutual gaze that said “only you really know how I’m feeling right now.’’
Brian Propp, who has been recovering and rehabilitating from a massive stroke suffered in 2016, met former world-class triathlete Missy Flynn, a brain aneurysm survivor (2005), for the first time recently.
The two didn’t have to say a whole lot because there was a palpable feeling in the room that both persons instinctively admired the other for their courage and fortitude.
One of the greatest players in Flyers history, Propp devotes much of his time now to the brain injury cause.
Recently, he joined forces with Bancroft Brain Injury Services, a New Jersey-based non-profit organization which offers nursing, rehabilitation, hospice, developmental disabilities, behavioral support and autism care services.
By invitation, Propp stopped by Flynn’s Newtown residence – which she shares with life-partner Brian Wong – both to get acquainted and to learn about the Bucks County Duathlon/8K Challenge, which celebrated its 10th anniversary running on Sunday, Sept. 1 in Washington Crossing State Park.
Propp, the third-leading point scorer in the Flyers’ record books, indicated Flynn is following a path similar to his own.
“It’s hope first,’’ Propp said. “When I first had my stroke, I couldn’t talk for three months. I had to re-learn how to talk. . .it took me a long time with speech therapy.
“You have to think positive. A lot of people who have had strokes I keep in touch with. I get their phone, their email and I call them every once in a while.’’
Working with the Bancroft organization gives him a chance to connect with a lot of people in various stages of recovery.
“I’ve been working as an ambassador for Bancroft,’’ he said. “We have a golf tournament, a walk and so forth. It keeps me busy visiting hospitals. The people are examples of how you don’t give up. You learn by hearing their stories.
“At meetings, people can talk about what they’re going through. Some people go through rehab but they don’t have people to talk to. As a group, it makes more sense because they can connect with others.’’
Wong appreciated Propp’s visit.
“Missy can’t compete like she used to when she won 5Ks,’’ he said. “But (now) that part of your character doesn’t change.
“There’s a place in our house where there’s a bump. For 14 years, she’s been trying to get over that bump (in her wheelchair) by herself. She’s never made it but everyday she keeps trying.’’
Propp smiled with admiration.
“. . .Never giving up,’’ he said.
The BCD has seen an uptick in registration numbers over the past week or so.
Including previous fund-raising events dating back to 2006, more than $100,000 has been raised for Flynn’s uninsured medical expenses.
Race co-director Harry Betz, who owns and operates Newtown Bike Shop (BCD headquarters), smiled a lot because he’s always been a big Brian Propp fan.
Like Wong, he was gratified that Propp took the time to visit and get to know Flynn.
“The sports community, we stick together, be it hockey, cycling. . .it’s all the same,’’ Betz said. “My most gratifying thing with the duathlon is not the first 10 guys, with the fancy equipment.
“It’s the last 10, some of which might never have done something like this before. I remember one guy, it took him over two hours but when he crossed that finish line, I got goosebumps. It’s that inherent drive in us. Whatever level you do it at.’’
Each year when Flynn arrives at the BCD award ceremony, she gets a big ovation. There are a lot of people out there who compete in the BCD just because it’s their way of contributing to the cause.
Having a strong support group, Propp says, is a key to dealing with daily life and brain injuries.
“I’ve gotten help from the Flyers’ Alumni,’’ Propp said. “There’s (former teammate) Ray Allison and another friend, Scott McKay. . .they stop in all the time.
“Staying active helps. I still play hockey.’’
At that pronouncement, Flynn smiled. In her mind, she still believes she’s going to make it over that hump in her wheelchair someday.
Why would anyone doubt that?