Within moments of the Buffalo Bills’ season opener, tight end Kevin Everett made what was thought to be a routine tackle, but in fact, that incident resulted in a life threatening serious spinal cord injury. Within seconds he became a quadriplegic and his prognosis was bleak. Fortunately for Everett, the medical staff reacted quickly to his paralysis and used an experimental treatment called moderate hypothermia therapy.
When most people think, “hypothermia,”, they normally react and think that this is something to avoid, right? After all, prolonged hypothermia can cause multiple organ problems and even death in severe cases. But since the 1960’s, doctors have been experimenting with using this cooling treatment on serious, life threatening injuries such as brain trauma, spinal injuries, heart attack and strokes.
The main goal of this therapy is to lower the body temperature as soon after the injury as possible. Everett’s ambulance crew started simultaneous steroid injections and intravenous saline solution infusions even before they reached the hospital. Once they arrived at Buffalo’s Millard Fillmore Hospital, he was rushed into surgery to realign his neck and stabilize him. Even after his surgery, they injected a catheter into his femoral artery to keep ice-cold saline in his veins for another 24 hours. They kept him at a cool 92 degrees. Studies show that by keeping the body cooled soon after a major trauma, this may reduce the neurological and cardiovascular damage. The only down side is that if they keep him cool too long, it could cause other side effects such as organ damage.
Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, Everett’s orthopaedic surgeon says that his progress is stunning. It was originally thought that it was unlikely Everett would ever walk again, but in the days after this grim initial prognosis, Everett’s condition is now beginning to improve. He is now conscious and has regained a small degree of movement in his ankles, legs and arms.Additionally, he is breathing on his own without a respirator.
Each year in U. S. we have 11,000 new cases of spinal cord injury or SCI. There can be many causes for this trauma, but the majority are the result of vehicle crashes,(47%). The next most common cause of SCI are falls, followed by acts of violence and recreational sporting injuries. Any spinal cord injury is serious because the function of the spinal cord is to carry the messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When the spine is injured, the body does not receive the signals and does basically nothing. This can have catatrophic affect to families due to medical costs, rehabilitation and shortened life span.
The Miami Project is the leading research facility conducting studies with this cooling therapy.Their theory is that by inducing hypothermia immediately after an injury, it may protect the sensitive nerve tissues by slowing down the body’s functions and swelling caused by normal chemical reactions within the body. The doctors know that not all damage from SCI is immediate. Neurons continue to die for hours and even days after the accident. The immediate choices that these doctors make can determine whether a patient dies, lives or ever walks again. Clients with spinal injuries look to their attorneys to stay on top of the latest and best innovation for recovery. We try to add this expertise to all our cases, as set forth in detail in our injury website, http://www.allenflatt.com
Everett’s future is still uncertain. However, due to many controversial and difficult decisions made by those surrounding him, he has made an incredible progress to date. He is now moving his arms and legs, but he still has a long recovery ahead of him. He may never play football again, but he may walk! Although no one can say for sure, moderate hypothermia therapy has made all of the difference to this young man. That’s a victory that no one can take from him.