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GREAT NEWS FOR OUR FAMILY

New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com

Jets’ Henderson
recovering fast
By RICH CIMINI
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Four weeks ago, Jamie Henderson lay comatose in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. Remarkably, his 6-2, 200-pound body was virtually unscathed from a horrible motorcycle crash - just a small bruise on his forehead and scrapes on his knuckles - but his appearance belied the gravity of his condition.

Henderson, a big, strong and fast defensive back for the Jets, was listed in critical condition after suffering a closed head trauma. He was breathing with the help of a respirator, and there was significant swelling in his brain - a condition known as cerebral edema. The doctors drilled a small hole in his skull to insert a brain catheter, which began to drain the dangerously high level of fluid.

The accident happened around 8 p.m., on a two-lane road in Henderson’s hometown, Carrollton, Ga. By 9, the news had traveled up and down the eastern seaboard. Family members called friends, who called teammates, who called more teammates. Everyone in the phone chain, it seemed, delivered the same message.

Pray.

Pray hard.

“The call I got didn’t leave much hope,” said Randy Padgett, one of Henderson’s old high school football coaches. “They didn’t know if he’d make it through the night.”

The next day, the Jets prayed as a team, 40 men on bended knee, in the middle of the weight room.

Henderson survived the night, the week and the month, and now - are you ready for this? - he’s talking about playing football again in 2005. According to his mother, Tonya Arnold, Henderson told family and friends Friday night, “I’m going back to New York to work out. I’m going to work out for a year and go back next season.”

He’s scheduled to be released Wednesday from Shepherd Center, an Atlanta-based hospital for catastrophic brain and spinal-cord injuries. From there, he will continue his rehabilitation as an outpatient at an undisclosed hospital.

Neurologists say it will take at least three months to determine whether Henderson, 25, can play again. Either way, it’s still an inspiring comeback, especially in Carrollton, where he’s larger than life. Even in his own locker room, Henderson’s plight moves teammates to tears.

After a minicamp practice Friday, Jason Glenn turned glassy-eyed when asked about Henderson. Glenn recalled their first phone conversation after the accident, saying he became so emotional that he had to cut it short. Glenn hasn’t visited the hospital. It’s not because he doesn’t care; it’s because he cares too much.

“I don’t think I could handle seeing him like that,” Glenn said.

Curtis Martin, who visited Henderson a week after the accident, conducted a bedside vigil, whispering prayers into his teammate’s ear. He asked Henderson to squeeze his fingers if he could hear him. Henderson squeezed.

“I almost cried,” Martin said.

Henderson was a rookie biker. One month before the crash, he appeared in a motorcycle ad in his hometown paper. There was a photo of him being handed the keys to a new bike. His new hobby caused immediate worry among friends and teammates. Two days before the accident, Martin warned Henderson, “I don’t mess with (motorcycles) anymore.”

At the police station in Carrollton, Capt. Michael Mansour, a longtime Henderson admirer, thought to himself, “Lord, I wish he wouldn’t do that.”

Henderson is revered in Carrollton, a racially mixed city of 19,000. He was more than a sensational athlete. As a high school student, he belonged to the role-model program, lecturing younger kids on the evils of drug and alcohol abuse. When he turned pro, he bought uniforms for the track team. A year ago, he was inducted into the high school Hall of Fame.

Then, on the evening of April 3, Mansour got the call: motorcycle accident on Kingsbridge Road, near the Gold-Kist poultry plant. Jamie Henderson, unconscious.

Mansour was off duty. He went to the scene anyway.

“It was very sobering,” he said.

The police investigation still is ongoing, but it appears that Henderson failed to negotiate a curve, drove off the road and flew off his bike, according to Mansour. No alcohol or drugs were involved, the police said.

Residents with knowledge of the crash believe Henderson exceeded the 45 mph speed limit, but Mansour declined to say whether the police suspect speeding as the cause of the accident. Henderson was riding alongside another motorcycle, fueling rumors that they were racing.

“The whole town was in shock; it bothered everybody,” said Craig Musselwhite, one of Henderson’s former track coaches. “It made me think twice about everything in life.”

Henderson was in a coma, and there were blood spots on his brain, and his brain pressure was getting out of control.

“It hurt my heart to see him like that,” teammate Josh Evans said.

After a few days, Henderson’s vital signs returned to normal and the blood spots disappeared. He was sedated until the intense pain subsided. Gradually, his speech and motor skills returned. Two weeks ago, he was able to get on his feet. He spent the last two days calling teammates’ cell phones, trying to get the latest developments from minicamp.

Henderson still faces a long road of recovery. His doctors are hopeful that he didn’t sustain any permanent brain damage, according to his mother. When his rehab is complete, he still could suffer from seizures, headaches, memory lapses and concentration difficulties, according to Dr. James Stevens, an Indiana-based neurologist.

Stevens hasn’t examined Henderson or his medical records, but speaking in general about such cases, he didn’t rule out a return to football. Said Stevens: “He’s young, and the brain has a certain amount of resilience when you’re younger.”

According to Henderson’s mother, Jamie’s doctor told him, “Be careful this year, then start again.”

To Henderson, the words sounded like poetry.


Posted by SAM on 05/03 at 07:35 PM in Blogging

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