The Blog Squad

Friday, September 21, 2007

Steps to a Cure

Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills player who was paralyzed after breaking his neck on the football field, will soon walk. That’s what doctors said as he was transferred from Buffalo to a Houston hospital today, less than two weeks after sustaining a life-threatening spinal cord injury.

“Soon… they’re going to stand him up,” Dr. Barth Green, president of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, told the Associated Press. “(Doctors are) very confident he’ll be walking very soon… in the next days or weeks, not months.”

Incredible news. Some would consider Everett’s progress a miracle.

But it’s not.

There were many steps taken before and after the tight end fell limp on the field. It started 22 years ago when Marc Buoniconti collapsed from making a tackle for The Citadel and was paralyzed for life.

His father, Nick Buoniconti, is an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker and a former HBO football show host. After his son’s injury, Nick Buoniconti joined a group to establish The Miami Project, now one of the world’s leading neurological research centers and located on the University of Miami campus.

Over the years, Nick and Marc put a face to spinal cord injuries and the Buoniconti Fund raised millions for The Miami Project, which today has an impressive list of researchers, clinicians and therapists whose purpose is to find a cure.

Christopher Reeve, the former actor, was treated at The Miami Project when he was paralyzed after being thrown from a horse in 1995. Reeve later also established a foundation to pursue a cure.

All the work, all the hopes, and unfortunately all the new cases of paralyzes (10,000-12,000 per year in the United States) culminated when Kevin Everett ran down the field full speed to open the second half against the Denver Broncos.

Marc Buoniconti checked his e-mail and relived his own tragedy as he read of Everett’s injury moments after it happened. Buoniconto said in a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article that he had a flashback to the time he couldn’t feel his body and thought: “Oh my God, I broke my neck. I’m paralyzed.”

When Marc snapped back to reality, he called Bills owner Ralph Wilson and asked how The Miami Project could help. Ironically, Wilson is one of the project’s biggest financial donors.

Green contacted the Buffalo doctors, who already knew of project’s work with hypothermia, or cooling of the body, as a way to treat spinal-cord trauma. Within 15 minutes of the injury, cold saline solution flowed through Everett’s body and lowered his temperature to 92 degrees. It reduced the swelling. Doctors likened it to putting an ice pack on a sprained ankle or knee.

Initially, the prognosis was not good. Everett’s injury was “catastrophic.” Doctors said full recovery was not likely. Then Tuesday (Sept. 11) came and Everett was taken off sedation and his limbs started to move.

Green would tell the Sun-Sentinel, “For us, it’s hard to describe. It’s basically everything Nick Buoniconti and Marc and I have dreamed about—actually getting people walking out of the hospital. It’s a surreal feeling.

“Added to the fact is Mr. Wilson being so important to us here and a University of Miami player is involved—more irony, considering we’re part of the University of Miami. It’s karma. It’s amazing. It’s all a bit mind-boggling.”

There’s one more bit of information that’s numbing. Green added that Everett’s injury to the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae was exactly the same as Marc Buoniconti’s.

“If this treatment was available 20 years ago, Marc would be walking right now,” Green said to the Sun-Sentinel.

This year, the NFL stopped funding a Miami Project grant that studied spinal cord and brain injuries. Perhaps Everett’s accident will bring the league back.

So if you have one dollar to give, one dollar to add to a collective lump that will improve the world, consider giving it to the Buoniconti Fund. You never know when karma will save your life.

OUT AT HOME: I’m going to the Redskins-Giants game Sunday with a relative who loves the New York team. So much, in fact, he went to a game at FedEx Field two years ago dressed as a blue Santa. He was booed and had beer thrown on him. Mothers and their children took turns giving him the bird.

Right on, Skins fans! Nobody wears a blue Santa suit in our house!

When my relative came back from that Christmas Eve game, he looked like Dan Aykroyd in “Trading Places” after he takes a big bite of a salmon he stole from the company party.

Anyway, I don’t think he’ll pull any stunts this year. He doesn’t drink anymore.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Elton John an Atlanta Braves fan? Who knew?


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