Entries in Eric LeGrand (2)


Paralyzed Rutgers Player Overcoming the Odds

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Eric LeGrand's football career was over in a second ... the second he tackled Malcolm Brown on a kick return at New Jersey's Meadowlands Stadium last October.

"I fell to the ground and my body just went, 'ding,'" he said. "That's all I hear, like my bell was ringing and I -- my body was stuck ... I try to get up but I couldn't."

He couldn't get up because he had broken his neck. LeGrand's mother, Karen LeGrand, was in the stands and said she knew instantly that something was wrong. Not only could LeGrand not move his body, but he struggled to breathe.

[Watch LeGrand's Interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi]

"I was like, 'Can I pass out? I may die here,'" he said. "Fear of death, that's the biggest fear that I got because I couldn't breathe the way I was breathing and I couldn't move. ... Laying out on the ground, motionless, not being able to breathe was the hardest part in thinking: Can I die here?"

For seven minutes, his family watched helplessly as trainers tried to help. His body and head were immobilized as he was taken off the field.

LeGrand fractured his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae and, that night, underwent nine hours of emergency surgery to stabilize his spine. At 22, he was paralyzed from the neck down. Doctors gave him a zero to 5 percent chance of regaining neurologic function -- a prognosis his mother never told him.

In the wake of the injury, the outpouring for LeGrand was enormous. As he remained in intensive care, the Rutgers community adopted a single word to show its support -- believe.

"I believe that I will walk one day. I believe it," LeGrand said. "God has a plan for me and I know it's not to be sitting here all the time. I know he has something planned better for me."

That belief has not wavered. Six days after surgery, he first moved his shoulders. By early November, he transferred to a rehabilitation facility less than an hour from the Rutgers campus to begin his recovery. Still breathing on a ventilator when he arrived, he asked doctors to remove it for the first time during Thanksgiving week.

"The doctor said I might be able to breathe for a minute. A minute," he said. "I lasted an hour and a half."

"He went through the night, the next day, and that was it," said his mother. "He was done. He says, 'I don't want it, I don't need it.' And he was breathing on his own just fine."

"Right now," Karen LeGrand said, "I believe he's got sensation everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere, yes. His arms, his legs, his feet. He has sensation everywhere."

LeGrand now stands for 40 minutes at a time. And when he sits, it's often in front of a computer as he works toward his degree via Skype.

He has a job providing color commentary for Rutgers football games on the radio -- a dream of his since he was a boy.

But LeGrand's legacy lies not just in what he's done for himself. At Rutgers, he's the essence of the team's mantra: believe.

"Believe. Believe. Believe," Karen LeGrand said. "It means we believe that he is going to be OK."

He might just get there. On Saturday, he will be one step closer when he leads the Rutgers' Scarlet Knights onto the field in his wheelchair -- his first trip through the team's entry tunnel since that fateful fall Saturday.

He isn't giving up on making that trip on his own two feet.

"Leading that team out of the tunnel ... oh man ... it brings chills down my spine," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Paralyzed Rutgers Football Player's New Challenge: Tackling Rehab

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HACKENSACK, N.J.) -- The video is hard to watch. Rutgers University defensive back Eric LeGrand goes in head-first for a tackle and collapses on the 25-yard line, frozen from the neck down by a spinal cord injury.

LeGrand, a junior at Rutgers, is currently in the intensive care unit at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. He had emergency spinal surgery soon after the game last Saturday. Rutgers announced he was paralyzed from the neck down.

Paralysis can be a grave diagnosis, as seen in other high-profile cases. Christopher Reeve, who had become famous for his role as Superman, was paralyzed from the neck down after an equestrian injury in 1995. He remained in a wheelchair and on life support, becoming one of America's leading advocates for spinal injury research until he died in 2004.

But paralysis has brought other stories that seem to border on miracles. In 2000, Adam Taliaferro, then a freshman cornerback at Penn State, was paralyzed after making a tackle. Several doctors said he would never walk again, but four months later, he did just that -- and in 2001, he led his old team onto the field before a game to roaring applause from the crowd.

Taliaferro later founded the Taliaferro Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers emotional, financial and educational support to student-athletes who suffer catastrophic head or spinal injuries in sanctioned team events. Taliaferro's father has already reached out to LeGrand's family to say the foundation is there to provide any support the family may need.

"My advice to Eric is to focus on where he wants to be," said Taliaferro. "He's going to hear negative news, but he has to block that out. No one knows what he has inside him. He was playing [Division One] football for a reason. He knows how to work hard, and he'll have the strength and tools to get through rehab."

And that rehabilitation road is a long one. As of Tuesday, doctors said there had been no change in Eric LeGrand's medical status after the spinal cord injury three days before. Even for the experts in the field, it's tough to say what's in store for him.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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