Brandon Indjic feels lucky to be alive.
On October 11, the 24-year-old was playing hockey in the Jasper Bearcats Alumni Tournament when he rushed the puck into the opposition’s end. He cut toward the goal, caught a rut in the ice and fell, face-first, into the metal crossbar that extends across the top of the net.
“I heard everyone yelling ‘Oh My God,’” he said. “I was spitting teeth onto the ice.”
In shock, Indjic didn’t know how bad his injury was. But his friends had an idea. Dan Anderson drove him to the Seton Healthcare Centre, where Indjic’s dentist, Dr. Randy Glover, showed up. Glover immediately sent Indjic to Edmonton, where he underwent emergency surgery. His upper jaw was shattered, eight teeth having been driven into it. Some of the teeth were protruding into his nasal cavity.
“The surgeon said it was something you’d see in a text book,” Indjic said. “He said I was lucky to be alive.”
Perhaps more incredible than his injury, or that he skated off the ice under his own volition, or the fact that his oral surgeon was Dr. Glover’s professor, was Indjic’s attitude, post-surgery. Visiting the Jasper Arena for the first time since he got hurt, watching noon hour shinny from the stands, Indjic said that what he felt more than anything else was gratitude. He was thankful for his supportive family, his friends and the community around him.
“Sometimes when you leave Jasper you wonder if people still remember you,” he said. “After this I know that everything else in my life might change but for me Jasper will always be the same. The support has been unreal.”
So far, he has had a remarkable recovery. Doctors told him he’d be relegated to a liquid diet and moving very gingerly for at least three months. But just 10 days after the accident, he was eating scrambled eggs.
“I was in the gym last weekend,” he laughed.
Indjic has come back from injury before. When he was 14, after cutting the tip of his finger off while repairing his mountain bike, it only took him three days before he was riding again. And two years before than, he knocked out his front tooth after wiping out on his skateboard.
“That was in the summer, on a half pipe set up right there,” he said, pointing to an area in front of the net. “This arena and my teeth don’t get along.”
Indjic’s good humour carried him through those setbacks, and it will carry him through his current one. He is currently going to welding school in Calgary and doesn’t anticipate his lengthy surgery schedule will divert that path.
“I’ve learned that the best way to deal with things is to take it in stride and be positive," he said.
He’s scheduled for a bone graft in January to rebuild his upper jaw, followed by titanium implants to replace his tooth roots. Once the implants start to fuse to the bone, he’ll get his crowns.
“I’m looking at about eight months to a year for a smile,” he said.
And does he hope to play hockey again?
“Sure,” he said. “I’ll play hockey one day.”
“But I’ll be wearing a cage.”