Parents: Injured high school football player won't need brain surgery
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- You need look no further than YouTube to realize that Grace Christian Academy (Knoxville) running back Will McKamey is the Total Package.
A contender for valedictorian with a 4.3 (A-minus) grade point average.
A dream of medical school and a career as an orthopaedic surgeon.
Football skills impressive enough to sail him into an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.
"He's always taken his hits and played through a pain," his father, and only coach, Randy McKamey says.
So to witness what happened Friday night, late in the third quarter of GCA's game at South Pittsburg; "It's not a concussion," Randy McKamey says. "It's more of a sudden impact."
Dad, and doctors, may never know for sure which hit inflicted the damage. Will had scored a touchdown only seconds before GCA lined up for a two-point conversion.
"Earlier, he'd said that be felt his legs tingle," Randy McKamey says. "He said at the snap,he couldn't hear. And as he came off, things just began to go dark, and he said, "I'm going down."
Randy McKamey wasn't aware of his son's predicament immediately. The reality of it is difficult to describe, three days later
"It's a feeling I would never wish on anyone," he says.
"I had a difficult time walking into the emergency room," his wife, Will's mother Kara McKamey says. "We'd heard about bleeding on the brain. I had talked to a friend of ours who was a paramedic. I was afraid of what I'd find."
The LifeForce helicopter flew him straight to Erlanger Medical Center from South Pittsburg field.
Early on, surgery would appear to have been the only option. But doctors made clear it would come with a price. Will could forget about playing football. Ever.
"I just told him the severity of it," Randy McKamey said. "It was, 'look, I've coached for many years, played for many years. I've never had one try to die on me'. And I said, 'that was you'."
They decided not to decide, immediately; putting their faith in prayer. And time.
"He wouldn't want to stay out of football, but if there was a way to minister to somebody, he's definitely able to do that now," Randy McKamey says.
The pictures on Will's Facebook page offer a lot of insight. Spring Break, junior year, wasn't on a Florida beach. It was a mission trip to Nicaragua.
By midday Saturday, doctors had reached some conclusions.
"The swelling hadn't gotten worse," Kara McKamey says. "So I wasn't surprised when they told me he wasn't going to need it (the surgery)."
The Naval Academy and medical school never were out of the picture. Football could be back in it.
"The way (the Doctor) explained it, Will's scan and Will's body don't match," Randy McKamey says. "The scan shows a kid who shouldn't be able to do what he's doing right now."
All weekend, Will's friends and teammates offered prayers and support via Facebook and Twitter.
Saturday, GCA Pastor Matt Mercer led a prayer service at 4:24PM, as in, "for 24" Will's jersey number.
Only afterward, did he, and other, realize the larger Biblical connection. Acts 4, verse 24: "And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them (New American Standard Bible)
Sunday, Will came out of the intensive care unit.
"When he first came out, he was like, 'Dad, I'm not dead'."
"He's still fragile," his father says. "When you get the news he is out of the woods, I think everybody gets excited, and we overdid it a bit yesterday."
Will's stayed in touch via Twitter.
"I'm all good now," he tweeted Sunday night. "I appreciate everyone and everything you guys have done, I love all of you."
Monday, the shout-out was to his girlfriend, Elizabeth Seal, "for takin' care of me. She's the best."
Nausea and dizziness remain issues. But doctors are considering sending him back to Knox County Tuesday or Wednesday.
"It may be tough holding him back," his father concedes. "We (GCA's Rams) are looking toward the post-season."
Will has played his last full game this season.
"I can't imagine right now seeing him in a uniform," his mother says. "I can't go there. It'd be hard to put him on a field."
But with Will, his father says, there likely will be a way.
"He definitely will coach from the sidelines," Randy McKamey says. "And we may be able to find him a moment."
"Even if it means we work out a deal with the other team, and he steps on the field and steps off."