Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuning in to watch a 'miracle?'
With fiancée Wiande on his arm, last Friday was a walk in the park for Kevin Everett.
Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, who suffered a spinal cord injury during a tackle in a game on September 9, may show up at his team's home game against the New York Giants this weekend. It will no doubt be an inspirational moment for everyone. You will remember Kevin originally arrived at the hospital paralyzed from the neck down. He received very quick surgery by the Bills' doctors, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Cappuccino and neurosurgeon Dr. Kevin Gibbons.

The question many people may ask themselves is "Why did Mr. Everett recover when so many others don't?" Some will say his spinal cord injury wasn't as bad as originally thought. Others will say it had to do with a controversial therapy, known as hypothermia, where the body and spinal cord are chilled. Some will say it is a miracle.

No one could argue that Everett's recovery is on track, and that's a good thing. But as a neurosurgeon, I feel a wholesale endorsement of a highly controversial - and in medical literature, largely unproven -- treatment (one that's potentially quite dangerous - it's linked to everything from infection and cardiac arrhythmias to pneumonia and organ failure) does warrant a little more discussion, which is why I am blogging about it.

First off, the rehabilitation doctors at Memorial Hermann TIRR stated in a press release that Kevin Everett actually suffered from a central cord syndrome, as opposed to a complete spinal cord injury. This is very important because we know the vast majority of patients (97 percent) with central cord syndrome do actually improve to the point of walking again (click here for more information). So, Kevin already had the odds in his favor.

And here's what is incredibly striking. Kevin's improvement and recovery began before the hypothermia was ever started. Dr. Gibbons - who was right there, treating Kevin alongside Dr. Cappuccino, and who had largely stayed out of the limelight during Kevin's treatment -- had this to say in a yet unpublished letter to the Editor of Sports Illustrated: "Kevin's dramatic recovery of movement began before the placement of the catheter and before effective cooling."

So, why is this so important? Well, because many people around the country who have suffered a tragic injury to the spinal cord may point to hypothermia as the key to recovery. That may offer false hope. As with most things, it is not that easy. Of course, none of this really matters to Kevin, and I will tune in to see him walk at the game. It will be a great moment.
However his recovery occured (thru miracle, or luck, or modern medicine) it is truly a great story. It's always tough to see a talented and gifted athlete suffer such a devastating injury.

Thanks :)
I am about to make a "Politically Incorrect" statement: Kevin's recovery is a real modern day miracle from God right here in America. True story. The reason we know about this one, is because there was so much publicity surrounding his injury. Stuff like this is happening all over the world right now, even here in Alaska. Someone is trying to get your attention.
I’m happy to hear that his injury wasn’t as severe as doctors originally thought. I hope he is able to use his college education (Miami – FL) to pursue another career, should the NFL not be an option.
Thank you for this dose of reality
As a trauma surgeon at a busy level one center in the midwest, we have been bombarded by patient's families who we have admitted with SCI. I am glad they did not mention the use of high dose steroids...the data on that is questionable at best. My neurosurgeons give it for the lawyers. As a life long Cane fan I am glad he is doing so well.
In 1968 my mother was in a devestating car accident - massive brain damage to the motor nerves. As a way of preventing swelling of the brain, her doctor's lowered her body temperature by packing her in ice. This saved her life. She went on to finish grad school, watch her children get married and see her grandchildren born. About 5 years after her accident, we heard that reducing body temp was not an effective way of preventing damage and was held in low esteem. Glad to see that 38 years later, it has been brought back with such good results.
Mom would be proud.
You know you say its a 'miracle'

But it not... I bet you I can name 4 Major Factors in his blood and body that would allow this to happen.
The details are important. I believe in God-given miracles and I believe He was watching over this athlete. I am also an emergency room nurse. People like to take the information that makes for the biggest story. We use hypothermia therapy for cardiac events, but I have not heard of its use for spinal cord injuries. The fact that he was improving before the therapy causes me to believe the therapy did not have as much, if any, influence on his recovery as God did, regardless of the actual extent of the injury to begin with. God often works through medicine. And sometimes He works on His own.
Totally agre with ER nurse, as I, too, am in the Medical field...
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