Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The road to recovery for a footballer
Football player Kevin Everett is on the road to recovery
A lot of people have been following the story of Kevin Everett, the pro football player who suffered a fracture to his neck bones and a spinal cord injury on the playing field. At the time, his doctors immediately stated that he would be unlikely to ever walk again. It was devastating news. They added that they tried a therapy involving super-cooling the spinal cord and lowering the body temperature, in the hopes of a miracle. Well, as of today, it looks like that "miracle" is coming true. We now hear that Kevin Everett is moving his legs and is on the road to recovery.

I put miracle in quotes for a reason. As we investigated a little deeper, we found that Kevin Everett in fact suffered something known as a central cord syndrome. It's important to distinguish this from the types of spinal cord injury where people never walk again. This is the type of injury in which the central-most fibers of the spinal cord are damaged, but the rest of the spinal cord is intact. From some studies, we know patients under the age of 50 all recovered from central cord injury to the point of being able to walk. For patients between ages 50 and 70, the likelihood of walking was 69 percent (Full Report). So, in fact while Everett's recovery is terrific news for everyone, especially Kevin, it probably should not be considered a miracle or a result of super-cooling the spinal cord. It could be considered an expected part of his recovery.

There is no doubt Everett that still has a long road in front of him. Rehabilitation will be the name of the game. His hands will likely be most affected in the long run, and it is hard to say if he will recover to the point of running or playing football. But, Kevin, you have science on your side, which in this case is even better than a miracle. Please note, we've been in touch with the Buffalo Bills and Everett's doctors but they have declined our repeated requests for interviews.
I think it is irresponsible of the "TV medical community" to report on Everette's progress so early in his recovery process. As a c5/c6 quadriplegic myself I know how complex spinal cord injuries can be and having been able-bodied, can remember how uneducated the general public is about spinal cord injuries. People wrongly believe that if someone can move their feet, everything in between will work too. This isn't the case. There has been so much talk of Everette being able to stand and maybe walk, but no one has discussed whether he'll be able to move his arms again (aside from moving fingers). Recent reports say he pushes around in a wheelchair using his feet. This leads me to suspect that he still has significant impairment to his arms. But the media, including doctors such as Gupta, focus on his being able to walk and fail to mention that he may be unable to feed, dress, bath, or catheterize himself without being dependent on someone. The media wants to focus on the feel good side of things, and in the process is neglecting the realities of spinal cord injuries and the over 300,000 americans who have suffered them.
This is once again a riculous un-news worthy item that you, the media, has conjurred up to get some press time, likely, for one of your "consultants". I wonder if you sought this opinion simply on the basis that some are calling this a miracle...menaing "from God". What really is your motivation here. BTW, what qualifies this person to make such a statement...I suppose the simple fact that he is saying something that could "make" news.
Dr. Gupta,
Do you have a way to prove that the super-cooling technique did not prevent further damage or help his overall recovery? Also, I appreciate your discernment when it comes to "miracles". Who knows better than a doctor about miracles? Thanks for your best impression of a Monday morning quarterback. We'll let the real doctors help people. You keep blogging.
Please note, we've been in touch with the Buffalo Bills and Everett's doctors but they have declined our repeated requests for interviews.

The fellow's career ended weeks ago and you are even bothering people repeatedly to provide you with insights for a story in which you minimize people's heartfelt faith in God? It is sweeps week? First all all, I doubt the hospitals involved provided you the information for you to come up with the diagnosis you have definitively reported. Second, I wonder what the ethics of your inquiry and reporting are since you are a medical doctor.
Dear Dr. Gupta,

What beautiful encouraging words. I am sure they are a blessing to Kevin and his family. Like refreshing gentle rain. I’m so sorry for what he is going through - my heart and prayers go out to him. It’s terrifying if an injury affects your walking. Terrifying. You worry that you are going to stay like that. And sometimes a patient doesn’t tell anyone how scared they are – they hold their fears inside. So any encouraging kind word from a doctor means the world to someone who is injured and scared. The unknown creates fear but knowledge gives a patient power to cope and keep on fighting. It gives strength.

For dear Kevin he has hope now. I kindly realize it’s not easy for him to go through rehabilitation etc. and I assume he must be in pain too. My heart goes out to him. He deserves the best of care - it’s all worth it and such good news that he can move his legs a little now.

A miracle indeed.

I am sure millions of other people are cheering for Kevin too. I keep him in my prayers, sending gentle get well hugs to him from our family.

Thank you for your kind words Dr. Gupta.
Dear Dr. Gupta,

Hello. This is a follow up note. I re-read your words. I think I now understand what you meant by “miracle” in quotation marks.

It’s not something that happens by chance or just a by product of that treatment but can often be an actual expected sign the body’s recovery process? If so… to me, it means it is obviously beyond and better than hearing it’s a “miracle”.

I hope this is the case for dear Kevin and that he will continue to see more signs of his body recovering – even ever so slowly – from his injury. He will have to be very patient with himself and take it one day at a time for now. Keeping Kevin in my prayers - my heart goes out to him. (hang in there Kevin!)

Thank you again Dr. Gupta for your kind words (and the link to that report too)
I read Dr. Gupta's post and found that the peripheral activities were addressed with the necessary level of "need to know". While there are other concerns (like the use of arms, hands, etc.) these concerns are probably something that Mr. Everett would not necessarily want everyone to know he has yet to deal with. As he progresses and it is determined what he can and can't do, I think it should be a consideration of his personal and medical privacy as to who knows what and at what point. HIS comfort zone with the details should be considered before those of some other spinal cord injury patient that wants to blog is "expertise" in the matter. Dr. Gupta showed more consideration for Mr. Everett's recovery, physical AND psychological, by not going too deep into it. People are probably just happy for Mr. Everett that he hasn't been completely disabled by the accident and they are generally hopeful of the best possible recovery for him. Not everybody needs to know if he can catheterize himself or not. That's his business, not yours or mine.
I want to thank Dr. Sanjay Gupta for commenting on the so called miracle procedure of the Kevin Everett story. I am 57 years old, and a recent paraplegic, with a T-7/8 injury. I think most people in the able bodied world think that all SC injuries are pretty much the same. After my injury in Nov 2005, I found that that was so far from the truth. When you have thoroughly crushed your vertabrae, and severly done the same to the spincal cord, there are no miracle procedures the help one along. I think the media optimistically but possibly inadvertantly wanted to provide hope, and to be able to report this accident as a new way to prevent permanent injuries not only to those playing sports, but also to all who suffer SC injuries themselves.

I think the able bodied community has a long way to go to understanding SC injuries, and as I myself was one of them not long ago, not understanding one thing that happens to someone after such a tramatic injury. Only those close to a SC victim are the ones who actually know what we have gone through, and the future we have to look forward to.

Michael Fick
Rockwall, TX
interesting jonathan, although i think dr gupta was pretty clear in his description of the rehab road everett has in front of himself. i think gupta is on to something here. did the doctors in texas make everett's situation to be worse than it was -- so they could look like miracle workers? Gupta nailed it.
I think Gupta hit the nail on the head. There is NO (NONE) evidence that the supercooling technique works. On the other hand, Gupta did provide evidence of what does work, and how often. It is worth keeping in mind that Dr Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon, unlike the anonymous blogger. Thank you for clearlt bridging that gap between science and miracles Dr Gupta.
I believe that it is definitely a miracle that Kevin suddenly recovered from his spinal injury and that he is able to walk again. When he was first diagnosed the doctors had told Mr. Everett that his legs would never be able to carry him again, essentially meaning never being able to walk again. I also believe that this new way of recovery surgery that involves super-cooling the spinal cord is extremely intense and should definitely be used in the future.
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