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Sunday, 27 October 2013 15:31

Life After Devastating Spinal Injury, Ex-Green Valley HS Football Player LaQuan Phillips Shares His Battle

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On September 5th, 2008 then 18 year old LaQuan (Isaiah) Phillips awoke like any other high school football player, excited and ready to play some football. Little did he know that day would forever change his life. This story has been covered by local news several times but the story you'll find below is from LaQuan himself and in his own words with some help of the LVSF Staff.

We are proud to have LaQuan on board with us one of our newest Youth Sports Safety Advocates! He will be joining us in our community outreach to help spread the awareness of injuries such as his and how they can be prevented.

Check out the video at the end of the article...
LaQuan's Story

Little did I know that on September 5th, 2008, while starting for the Green Valley High School Football Team that my life was about to change forever. It was that epic senior year and I was a starter on the varsity football team and it looked like the whole world was in front of me. On game day I woke up with that it's time to play ball feeling.

During the Second Quarter on the 3rd defensive series, I was blindsided from behind by the receiver I was covering from the opposing team (Centennial HS) and flew head first into my teammates leg and laid face down on the football field paralyzed from the neck down.

It wasn't until a few hours later while at Sunrise Hospital that I would learn that my life as I had known it had come to a complete halt. After being ran through about 2-3 hours’ worth of tests, the doctors would deliver those devastating words that would turn my life upside down...

According to the doctors I had slipped my C3 disc in my spine and was paralyzed from the neck down. Hearing the words "paralyzed" was a wakeup call and my entire reality had changed in the matter of a few minutes and I didn't know what to expect next.

I would spend the next two weeks in Sunrise Hospital, friends and family filled my room daily for comfort and support. I still don't know how I maintained such an optimistic view. I guess the feeling of being alive beat the feeling of being paralyzed.

After a Couple of weeks of debating on which rehab to go to, my aunt and I settled on Shriner’s Hospital for children in Sacramento, CA. The reason being, I had family in Sacramento plus a new born nephew that I was excited to meet. I didn't expect when I arrived at Shriner’s that it would be as amazing as it was. I personally describe it as the Disneyland for disabled children because it's the happiest place on earth. I've never felt so safe it was a great feeling considering my circumstances. I felt out casted but Shriner’s provided comfort and acceptance. Plus it helped that there were other SCI (spinal cord injury) patients there with me also around my age.

Therapy was like boot camp 5 times a week, twice a day OT (occupational therapy) and PT (physical therapy) plus school. Some weeks I was booked from 7-4 with weekends off. We had activities on certain days like on Tuesdays we had cooking class where I'd get the opportunity to cook my own dinner (We mostly cooked pizza). On weekends if we were lucky we would go on outings like a LA Kings Hockey Game or a trip to the movies or the mall.

I came home in October to visit for the Henderson Bowl (Green Valley vs Basic) and as I watched us lose the Henderson Bowl I cried because it hurt not to be able to play in the most important game of my senior year on top of that we lost. It only sent me back to Shriner’s with more motivation to get better Quicker.

I returned home that November around Thanksgiving time to stay for good. I enrolled into Health South, a local rehab, where I went three times a week for 2 hours a day for OT and PT, all after school. I enrolled back into school that December in a wheelchair, when I started the year just a few months earlier I was able to walk in. I instantly felt out of place and being back was hard because I felt like for the most part I had lost my social life.

I found refuge in the choir room as choir was the only place that made me remember what being me felt like. I may have lost the ability to play football or run track but I had not lost the ability to hold a note. At a time when I was really feeling out of place and alone the choir room was there for me. Even if I sat in there by myself I was perfectly at peace... I felt free, away from the truth of the fact that I wasn't completely me.

In choir I was the me I had always been before the accident and I loved that feeling. It was a choir trip to Disney World in Orlando when I started to completely recover from my injury. Mr. Jeff Horn, Green Valley's Principal, got me an electric scooter which gave me my independence and freedom back. I can’t explain how great it felt to not have to be pushed around in a wheelchair!

After returning from Orlando it just seemed like the end of year came at full speed. At this point I was focused on one thing and that was the promise I made to myself back in October. That promise was that I Would walk across the stage for graduation. Sure enough, graduation day came and I kept my promise and walked across that stage to receive my diploma.

I’ve since attended Nevada State College with plans to major in sports management and am currently gaining some business experience before completing my education. Every day takes effort and it is a readjustment to life after such a catastrophic injury. I walk with a slight limp, have challenges with some fine motor skills, and admit to having an occasional fall, but I’m here. I have a new outlook on life, a renewed sense of purpose and physical and mental strength. I’m committed to a daily routine of exercise to increase my range of motion and balance and have learned how strong one can become even if you feel you’re at your weakest.

When you’ve received a diagnosis of temporary paralysis it is devastating. You have to believe that you will take that next step, that you will walk again and that you’ll be able to share your story in hindsight, as I am doing today. And that your story will mean something to those who listen. I talk about sports safety to young athletes and encourage them to aim high on the field; while also playing smart.

Read 4775 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 December 2013 07:01