Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Kid with the 1000 Pound Thumb

All you need is money and nerves of steel. I know not how much of the former Eric LeGrand and his family possess. I do know however just how well-stocked he is - and they are - with the latter. It has been just about two and one -half months since the life of the 20 year-old changed forever. If you are skeptical when you hear someone say, "In a moment everything can change", then consider asking this particular family if it is something in which they believe. I have never met any of them, but I am confident that their answer is known to me - even if they are not. They believe.

For this is a family long on faith. At the front and center of it - given all he has endured these past two and one-half months - is a young man whose bravery is nothing short of inspirational. And if you pause for one moment to wonder where he could have learned to be so brave, so stalwart, so stout, then watch the entire interview that ESPN aired Friday morning. Spend slightly less than seven minutes in the company of Eric's mother Karen. You shall wonder no longer. Pay particular attention to the portion of the interview when she talks about the moment she decided - having been given the unspeakably horrific news (after he underwent nine hours of surgery) that he had roughly a 5% chance of ever regaining neurologic function - that she would not ever share that information with him.

Her whole world had just collapsed around her. Yet her first thought - and likely her only thought -was to protect her child. A mother prays, "Sleep tight, my child, sleep well/For I'll be at your side/That no shadow, no darkness, no piercing bell/Shall pierce your dreams this night." The mother's prayer speaks not at all about her going sleepless herself to ensure the sanctity of her child's dreams. It is a duty unspoken. It is a duty unbroken as well.

If you had a bad day yesterday and you grumbled upon putting your feet on the floor this morning, then do yourself the great service of - prior to running out to Party City to pick up the favors for your pity party - getting to know Eric LeGrand and his mom Karen. Hopefully for you, there has not been a day of your life that has been as hard as his has been - and as hers has been - every day since October 16, 2010. I know that none of mine has come close. Presuming that you are as fortunate as I in that regard, consider not the plight of Eric LeGrand but the outlook. Look beyond the injury to the energy and to the attitude.

Among the many things about which I know nothing at all is spinal cord injury and the likelihood of recovery therefrom. I have read items on-line from people far better versed in it who continue to preach caution in assessing Eric LeGrand's long-term prognosis. I question neither their credentials nor their science. Likewise I do not discount the motor that powers Eric LeGrand. A motor that not only keeps him going but inspires countless others to do likewise. Kudos to Rutgers alum Bill Bellamy and everyone associated with the just-announced February 19th event at the RAC.

During the piece on ESPN, Eric LeGrand said that as he was being carted off of the field on October 16, 2010 he wanted to do something to reassure the crowd - to give them a sign that he was OK. He wanted to give them a thumb's up. He could not. At that moment, he felt as if he was the possessor of a half-ton thumb. In spite all of his considerable strength and prowess he could not raise it.

That's the thing, I reckon, about apples and trees. Where they land upon leaving the tree is never too far from the tree that birthed them and raised them - at least as long as the tree is strong and nurturing and enabled the apple to grow up strong.

Eric LeGrand is an inspirational young man. His mother Karen is nothing short of remarkable. The odds are long. The cards are stacked against them. Yet as long as they have a card to play and a chip to wager they shall remain in the game - shortening those odds one hand at a time. Perhaps when considering all that he has done to raise the game of those who know him - and those of us who do not - in the two and one-half months since his injury happened, it is ironic that in the immediate aftermath of his injury, Eric LeGrand could not raise up his thumb. By this point in time, his message has reached all of us, clear and true......regardless of the disagreeable nature of his digit.

BELIEVE. If he can and she can, then how can any of us not?

-AK

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