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Ottawa Rebel goalie Ross Cowie wanted nothing more than to shuffle off to Buffalo for tonight's National Lacrosse League game against the Bandits.

After all, Cowie is probably the most popular netminder who has ever worn a Bandits jersey. But lacrosse takes a back seat to physical recovery these days.

"I'm not bed-ridden but I'm still home-ridden," said the 36-year-old grade school teacher, who played for three championship teams in seven years here.

Cowie is recovering from a severe concussion and internal bleeding caused by a fall from the top of a ladder. It happened on New Year's Day at his parents' home in Peterborough, Ont.

"I had headed up the ladder to remove some snow from the roof, something I've done before," Cowie said. "When I got to the top, the ladder left me. I'm always careful and I still really don't know what happened."

Cowie fell about eight feet onto a driveway, where he was knocked unconscious after hitting his head on the pavement.

"A neighbor from across the street who had gone outside for a smoke saw him laying on the driveway and called 911," said Cowie's wife, Karen, who is about five months pregnant with the couple's first child. "He was vomitting blood and he was bleeding around his brain. It was frightening, touch-and-go for a while."

Cowie was taken to a Peterborough hospital, where he was stabilized, then transported to the trauma team at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. He stayed two weeks.

Cowie doesn't remember anything about the first week in the hospital, but his wife does.

"He was in severe pain with the headaches, so bad that he was getting shots of codeine every four hours or so," she said. "He has such a high threshold for pain, so I could tell he was just in agony. For a while he wasn't showing much progress, then all of a sudden, he came back to us almost overnight."

Cowie's headaches are easing and he's getting cognitive testing and physiotherapy twice a week. He's lost 15 pounds, putting him at about 200.

"My sleep patterns are still all messed up and I'm still very fatigued, but overall I know I'm very lucky," said Cowie, who has been told by his doctors that he won't be able to resume teaching this school year. "All my energy is going to my head, to repair whatever damage was done."

Cowie already had planned to make this his last season, and it started out well for him. In two games before being injured, Cowie made 57 saves on 66 shots for a 9.80 goals-against average. That's just a shade higher than Toronto's Bob Watson, who leads the league (9.34).

"He had played very well early and we were hoping he'd be an integral part of our defense," said John Mouradian, Rebel director of lacrosse operations. "When anybody has an accident or a disease it humbles us, especially in the sports field."

Cowie is Buffalo's career leader in games (46), minutes (1,724), goals-against average (13.2), victories (19), saves (1,128) and save percentage (.751). He's ninth in career saves in the NLL with 1,378.

"I think people still remember the Cow-ie, Cow-ie rumblings at the Aud," said Bandits coach Ted Sawicki, who played against Cowie and coached him. "He was an icon around here. Life is so full of surprises, we all take one on the chin now and then.

"He's such a fighter on the floor, I'm sure he'll be a fighter in this situation as well."

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