While the rest of the UNH men’s hockey team laces up their skates and prepares to take the ice, one player is chewing on Tums and calming his nerves. Sophomore defenseman Richard Boyd has Crohn’s disease and must take certain precautions before games to prevent flare-ups.
“It’s all just a part of the game for me now,” Boyd said.
Crohn’s is a disease that causes the lining of the digestive tract to inflame, and it can cause severe symptoms. Boyd was diagnosed in the summer of 2009 and has been adapting to the disease ever since.
“It made me feel really uneasy because I didn’t know what was happening to my body,” Boyd explained.
Although the 19 year-old from Delray Beach, Florida has played a good two seasons with UNH, the future of his hockey career didn’t always look so bright. After his initial diagnosis, Boyd suffered from severe symptoms of Crohn’s disease, including abdominal pain and fatigue. He took over a month off from school and hockey. During this time period he was in and out of the hospital and lost a total of 25 pounds. This may have been a scary enough experience to cause some players to pack up their skates for good, but not for Boyd. His drive and determination only grew. He attended Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, over a thousand miles from his home in Florida. His hockey career got serious, and his performance on the ice while at Cushing Academy would determine if he would play in college.
His medications would improve his health and help him obtain success. Boyd was prescribed low-doses of steroids and a pill form of chemotherapy to keep his Crohn’s disease symptoms at bay while he focused on hockey. A balanced and bland diet, along with his medications, helped Boyd regain weight and strength. His athletic talent and reputable character scored him a spot on the UNH men’s hockey roster in 2014.
Two weeks prior to his arrival in Durham, Boyd had a severe flare-up and was hospitalized once again. Boyd explained that this was a nerve-racking experience for him.
“I was nervous going into UNH because I didn’t feel good enough or strong enough to compete at the Division I level,” he said.
He lost 20 pounds of fat and muscle that he had worked hard to gain.
“If the athlete is experiencing an exacerbation or has not found the right treatment yet, it could affect their ability not only to compete but also to attend school,” said UNH community health nurse Judy Stevens about the potential risks.
Though this is a scary reality for Chron’s patients, Boyd slowly went on another strict diet and attempted to regain the weight he lost.
“I only ate really plain foods, no red sauces, nothing spicy, no dairy,” Boyd said.
His 2014 hockey season began after months of training. Boyd had regained his endurance and power with the help of his doctors, teammates and coaches. The defenseman hasn’t slowed down or let Crohn’s hold him back ever since. He has accelerated on the ice and gained the respect of his entire team.
“He is extremely committed both on the ice and in our community,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “It has not stopped him from competing at a very high level as a Division I hockey player.”
Teammate Adam Clark agreed that Boyd is a crucial aspect of the team.
“[Boyd] is the glue guy. He does all those little things that people in the stands might not notice, but make a difference to the game itself. His plays and defense keep the game together and the puck moving away from our net,” Clark said.
Boyd’s outgoing personality and endless amounts of hard work in times of adversity have proved he is a true Wildcat.
“There is always the opportunity of a flare-up, and that can be caused by something like the stress of an upcoming exam or game, and you never know when its going to happen, but all I can do is keep playing,” Boyd said.
Despite his health obstacles, Boyd’s resiliency has proven he has what it takes to lace up the skates for UNH hockey.