IRVING -- Their eyes were locked. Blues fixated on blues, as David Buehler recalled the day his girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.
Buehler's life, once solely consumed by football, had to make room for a possibility that young couples rarely prepare for or ever consider. Brittany Pigrenet, 25, went in for life-saving surgery on the morning of Oct. 22, holding the couple's 6-week-old son, Bryson, for as long as the hospital staff let her.
"It puts life and everything in perspective," David said, instinctively turning his gaze and focus on Brittany. "Before I was playing for myself, my family name, my teammates, the organization but now that I'm supporting Brittany and our son, Bryson, it puts everything in perspective.
"You work just that much harder. You put your heart and soul into knowing that I get to come home to the two people I love most."
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Buehler's professional life with the Dallas Cowboys hasn't always gone as planned. Drafted as a kickoff specialist in 2009, Buehler became the full-time place-kicker last season and made 24 of 32 field goals. Rookie Dan Bailey took over field-goal duties this season, with Buehler going back to kickoffs.
It hasn't been much of a season for the 24-year-old California native. Buehler suffered a torn adductor longus muscle in Week 2 at San Francisco, and was on and off the active roster for the next six weeks. A torn adductor brevis followed, and he went on season-ending injured reserve Nov. 10. For those counting, he's torn two of the three adductor muscles in the groin area.
The time spent rehabbing and trying to get back on the field coincided with Bryson's birth Sept. 6 and Brittany's surgery. Pigrenet, a recent Texas Woman's University graduate who grew up in Irving, has dealt with migraines her entire life but, when she experienced six in a two-week period along with vomiting, it was obvious something was wrong.
Though she's stubborn and doesn't like to put people out, that her brother had an aneurysm about 10 weeks before convinced David and Brittany that she needed to see her doctor. She underwent a CT scan on Oct. 21. The aneurysm had been bleeding for at least a month.
"I was worried because he's trying to get over an injury, he's got his own stuff to worry about and then here I go with my problems," Brittany said. "He was at the hospital spending the night, he was supporting me, and it had to be mentally draining on him, too. Yeah, this was not a good time for this to happen."
Buehler went to the Cowboys' medical staff for advice. They lined up one of the country's premier neurosurgeons, Dr. Duke Sampson, to consult with Brittany, and surgery was scheduled the following morning at UT Southwestern. The blood vessel was clamped, leaving Brittany with a five-inch scar starting near the top of the head and reaching her left ear.
"You wonder if you're going to be normal again," she said. "You hear these stories about aneurysms -- people are in the hospital for months or they don't come out walking or can talk right. Am I going to be able to take care of my son?"
She's still not all the way back. At first she had difficulty remembering names. Chronic fatigue and haziness followed. Only recently has she begun to drive again, though she's limited to areas around their home.
It wasn't so long ago that all appeared ideal in David and Brittany's lives. For them, it still is.
"It's definitely made our love for each other grow," Buehler said. "You learn more about a person. She was a very independent, strong-willed woman when I met her. I gained so much respect for her going through this."
They both said the same about the Cowboys family. As much as pro football is a business, a team is more than that.
Brittany's family and faith were there for her every step through the recovery. The Cowboys were, too.
Erin McBriar, wife of punter Mat McBriar, set up a schedule for the Cowboys Women's Association to help with Bryson and bring Brittany dinners. (David's favorite was the Hatchers' southwestern chili. Brittany couldn't decide between the Kosiers' or the McBriars' lasagna.) Candice Romo arranged for a cleaning service.
"You think it's just the kicker; who would help him?" Brittany said with a laugh. "But everyone from Brill Garrett to Candice to Erin, they all stepped up. I really was amazed."
Brittany, a former cast member of VH1's Football Wives along with Erin McBriar, should be due for another life-changing event soon via that kicker.
"She's my better half and I want to spend the rest of my life with her," David proclaimed. "The proposal will come when she least expects it."
David had the surreal experience of watching Sunday's win at Washington on his couch. Brittany and Bryson were done up in Cowboys gear, as was guest Krista Bailey. The pizzas that were delivered served only as a diversion for three adults on edge.
Krista is the wife of Dan Bailey or, in football terms, Buehler's competition. If David is to be cut, as some have speculated, before next season, it's likely because the Cowboys feel Bailey can handle field goals and kickoffs. That hardly stops Buehler from pulling for his teammate and friend.
Fist pumps, high-fives, hugs and Buehler's "Way to go, Danimal!" filled the living room as Bailey's 39-yarder slipped inside the right upright for the 27-24 overtime win.
Buehler has thought about playing for other teams. He'd rather spend his career with the Cowboys, but is realistic about football's transient nature, especially for kickers.
"The NFL is 'Not For Long,'" Buehler said. "It's a performance-based league, so if you're not performing and doing your job effectively, they don't need you. I was trying to get my butt on the field as quickly as possible and I tore another muscle in my groin."
A setback, sure, but not one David and Brittany are dwelling on, especially not today. Buehler will be on the sideline this afternoon at Cowboys Stadium, "coaching up" Bailey as much as much as he can against the streaking Miami Dolphins. Brittany and Bryson have three separate family feasts on the docket.
"This Thanksgiving is probably going to be the best one yet because we have so much to be thankful for," David said. "We're thankful for our health, thankful for Bryson, thankful for our friends and family, thankful for the support. You see how many friends you truly have and who's there for you. Everything that we've been through has made us stronger."