Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gain from Pain

As many know, I am a BIG TIME sports fan, I follow pretty much any and all sports there are out there.

In the last few weeks there have been some pretty major sports stories circulating around, between OSU Coach Gundy verbally attacking a reporter in a press conference after his team won, to Cameragate where Bill Bellicheck got caught for doing what we all suspect every NFL team does in stealing signs, to finally Buffalo tight end Kevin Everett being injured and possibly paralyzed from a hit he received on the field of play.

This last story is actually the one I want to highlight, not because of the tragedy of the situation but actually the restoration of a man's body and how little coverage this has received in main stream media. When Kevin Everett was injured it was covered everywhere but already in a few short weeks it has been relegated to 2nd or 3rd page news and is tough to find any information on.

While perusing some of my normal sports sites I ran across this article in the Boston Globe: "Gain from pain." I won't cover the full article here, but I would HIGHLY suggest anyone who wants a "feel good story" to go and read that article pronto. But I will copy some excerpts here and provide a little commentary.

On Oct. 26, 1985, 19-year-old Citadel middle linebacker Marc Buoniconti suffered a dislocation of the third and fourth cervical vertebrae and a severe spinal cord injury while making a routine tackle. Now 40, Buoniconti has spent more than half his life in a wheelchair. Two weeks ago, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett injured the same two cervical vertebrae while making a routine tackle. Doctors say Everett will walk soon.
First of all how scary/exciting is to to know that you suffered an injury that put another man in a wheelchair for life, and yet because of advances in medical science a mere three weeks after suffering the same injury you may soon walk again.
Buoniconti did more than that. He decided to use his fame to raise money for a cure. He and Green founded the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world's largest comprehensive spinal cord injury research center, at the University of Miami.
The trio worked tirelessly, and to date they have raised more than $200 million for research. There are now 200 scientists, doctors, and researchers working under one roof
I find it amazing how underappreciated so many individuals in our society go unrecognized for their amazing contributions. Here is an athlete probably no one under 40 has even heard of (Buoniconti) and even if you are over 40 you have to be a die hard Miami/New England fan to know who he is (defensive players and linemen are highly under appreciated and under represented in the football hall of fame). Yet utilizing his limited fame he has raised over 200 million dollars for research. 200 million! Thats a lot of cash!
"It was less than 15 minutes after Everett hit the turf," Green said. "It was a bold decision - the first time a paralyzed patient or any patient following any kind of a brain or spinal cord injury has received this therapy within 15 minutes of a catastrophic injury. The results are amazing. And because of it, Everett will walk again."
Again it's only through God's providence that the owner of the Buffalo Bills is also a big supporter of the Miami Project (the above referenced charity) and because of his connections and support was the proper care able to be immediately administered to Everett. Not only is this going to revolutionize how injured football players are treated immediately following an on field injury, but has HUGE ramifications for on site emergency care at car crashes, constructions accidents, and a million other occasions where one could injury their spine. It's medicine being developed and utilized in sports that will have MUCH LARGER implications as it is applied throughout the entire medical community.
According to the National SCI Statistical Center, 11,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries occur in the United States each year. Human trials will start next year at the Miami Project on a healing treatment for chronic cases like Buoniconti's.
Think about how many individual lives are being transformed here. Not just the 11,000 spinal cord injury victims, but their families and loved ones who now go from having to care for a highly dependent person to having their mother/daughter/dad/son back in full health. Absolutely amazing.
"Let me tell you what he said in his Hall of Fame speech [in 2001]. 'I've had many accomplishments. Two Super Bowl championships, the unbeaten perfect season. I would trade this ring in and all my individual accomplishments if one thing could happen in my lifetime. As a father, I would like nothing more than to walk by his side. I'd give it all up to walk with my son again.'
How great and awesome is a father's love for his son. We are such imperfect beings with an imperfect ability to love when compared to our creator, but much even as a poor reflection of him, how awesome is that level of love!

This story is one of tragedy turning into redemption. It's about taking a horrific injury and finding a remedy through years of pain and suffering.

The only tragedy in this story now is that when you turn on your local news tonight, you won't hear a thing about it. Thats the real shame, because not only is it a feel good story of victory over adversity but it is a radical medical breath through that will impact tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives, possibly even one close to you.

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