Standing Tall: Kevin Everett Shines in Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett experienced a catastrophic spinal cord injury during the first game of the 2007-2008 football season. Everett’s fighting spirit and medical technology worked to transform a life-long tragedy into hope for other spinal cord injury victims.

How It Happened

Kevin Everett began the second quarter of the season’s first game attempting to stop the Denver Broncos’ Domenik Hixon on a kickoff return. The two large players dropped their heads and met helmet to helmet. The end result saw Hixon’s momentum slowed while Everett dropped limp to the turf.

Medics rushed to Everett’s side and found that, at first, he could not move any of his extremities. He was mobilized and rushed off the field in a gurney, loaded into an ambulance, and immediately taken to Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital in Buffalo where doctors initially gave a gloomy diagnosis of paralysis that would probably leave the 25-year-old bound to a wheelchair the rest of his life. It was eventually determined that Everett’s spinal cord had been dislocated in his neck with a break occurring between the third and fourth vertebrae.

Corrective Measures

As soon as Everett arrived at the emergency room, doctors administered a new medical technology to the injured Bills player. A solution of icy saltwater was intravenously injected into Everett which chilled his body in order to prevent swelling, fever and further nerve damage. Doctors applied the treatment overnight in the hope of dropping his body temperature to a steady 92ºF.

However, Everett did not respond to the initial cold therapy treatment and his body temperature remained at 98º through the night. It wasn’t until after the next-day surgery that his temperature dropped to the desired 92ºF via a second cold therapy treatment. During the surgery, Everett’s neck was realigned, a bone graft was made and a plate and two metal rods were installed using four small screws. After the surgery and hypothermia treatment, Everett regained partial mobility in his hands, legs and toes.

Although hypothermia through cold saltwater solution therapy remains controversial, many doctors believe that it was this new treatment that helped Everett beat the odds against full paralysis.

Effect on Career

After stringent rehabilitation, Everett began walking again to a certain degree by October 16. By December 7, he was walking under his own power, but still did not have complete movement of all his extremities. Everett received more surgery in April of 2008 and, although he was able to walk again, he has been placed on permanent disability with no chance of returning to sports.

Seven years after his life-threatening neck injury, Everett continues to be a beacon of hope as well as an ambassador to all those who have received debilitating spinal cord injuries. Everett released a book entitled Standing Tall to further share his extraordinary experience, received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, and has appeared on numerous TV programs.

This injury made it onto our worst sports injuries video database! Check out the rest of the entries here, and see how many you can get through without cringing!

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