BY CHUCK SLATER
There is a sign on the bedroom wall of star Lakeland/Panas athlete Gianna Bensaia: "Hard things are put in our way to bring out our strength and courage."
This past Mar. 30, that message moved off her wall and into the senior's life.
Bensaia, one of the area's premier athletes, a two-sport star in field hockey and lacrosse, was coming off a standout field hockey season in which she helped Sharon Sarsen's Rebels win a fourth straight state field-hockey crown following a summer with the national U17 team. A field hockey scholarship to New Hampshire awaited her in the fall.
But now it was lacrosse time and the defense-minded Bensaia was being counted on to provide offense for a team hit hard the previous June by graduation.
Sarsen's lacrosse girls were playing a friendly, pre-season Saturday match in Connecticut prior to opening their season in early April. Bensaia was running, with no contact, when she took a misstep and went down with a sudden, searing pain in her right knee. "I heard a snap, crackle, pop," she said. "I knew it was bad."University of New Hampshire's field hockey team will redshirt Gianna Bensaia her freshman year this fall as she recovers from knee surgery. Photo courtesy Gianna Bensaia
She had torn her ACL – anterior cruciate ligament – and the lateral meniscus on her right knee, the dreaded football injury. Recovery is slow and painful, even excruciating. Strength and courage are needed.
"I'd never been in that much pain in my life," Bensaia said.
Soon she would be in even more pain.
A renowned Lenox Hill surgeon, Dr. Richard Delaney, was recommended to her mother, Terry, and on April 19 – giving time for the swelling to recede, very light exercise to be done, and assessments to be made – she had the knee operation. "When they stuck in the IV [intravenous tube], it really hit me," Bensaia said. "I had tears on my face."
"The pain was worse after surgery," the young athlete said. "I had five days of insomnia. So much pain."