Thursday, November 19, 2009

Georgia Bulldog Paralyzed

Chance Veazey was living out his dream. He had a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Georgia. He impressed his coach so much during fall workouts that he was already penciled in as the starting second baseman.

Tragedy struck before Veazey made it to opening day.

Late last month, the freshman wrapped up a routine study session at the campus learning center, hopped on his scooter and drove out into the night. He never made it to where he was going, colliding with a car along the way. Sprawled out on the ground, he couldn't feel anything in his legs.

Veazey, it turned out, had sustained a devastating spinal cord injury.

The grim diagnosis: paralyzed below the waist.

"I can't begin to imagine what's going through his head,'' Georgia coach David Perno said Thursday, shortly after the first details of Veazey's injury were made public. "There will be no one on our team feeling sorry for themselves anymore, I can tell you that. This was life changing not only for me, but a lot of people close to him.''

Veazey was injured Oct. 28 - the first night of the World Series, strangely enough - and transferred about a week later to the Shepherd Center. There he is learning how to live from a wheelchair and perhaps girding himself to face the reality that he may never walk again.

"We're only three weeks into it,'' said Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, Shepherd's medical director. "I don't think (he's given up on the) hope that something miraculous is going to happen, that the light is going to suddenly turn on. We've seen it happen. We wish it happened more. But we have got to help him deal with the possibility, the probability, that it may not. That's very important.''

Over the years, Shepherd has worked with more than 50,000 victims of spinal cord injuries, including hockey player Travis Roy, who was left a quadriplegic by a freak injury on the very first shift of his very first college game. Veazey never made it to his first game, though he had already shown the Bulldogs he was quite a player.

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