After a stroke nearly killed her at 14, Dakota Lam perseveres in life and golf

Luca Evans, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Golf

At 16 years old, she's losing her fingernails.

The layers are flaking away, a side effect of her medication. It's hard for Fountain Valley High junior Dakota Lam to grip a pencil, let alone a golf club. Her fingers pulse after enough swings, and then the blood comes, spurting from the raw skin underneath the nails.

It always scares her father, Nghia. He takes his daughter home after practice to soak her hands in saltwater, hands he held as she lay in her hospital bed two years ago, clinging to life after a stroke. Bleeding triggers memories of the mysterious condition that sunk her platelet levels.

What if it comes back?

"Nobody knows, really," Nghia Lam said. "It's in God's hands, almost."

Few understand, really, what Dakota has gone through: memory loss, speech deficiency, headaches that feel like needles stabbing her brain. But she shrugs it off, hiding it all behind a happy-to-be-here smile.


Golf can bring Lam pain, but it's also her happy place, a present free of worry over an uncertain future. Gripes, complaints, negativity she feels won't change her situation.

"I try to be as optimistic as I can about it," Lam said. "Try to make the best of what I have."

Nghia, an engineer and former golfer, figured if he got his daughter hooked on golf, she'd spend more time with him.

So ever since she was 7, they'd go to the range for a couple hours every day after school, Lam growing to love the sport.


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