In high schools across the country, starting quarterbacks and running backs often are viewed as hometown heroes for their leadership and athleticism on the gridiron. Danville football stars Alex and Ross, however, are admired by their community for much more.
On June 16, 2010, Alex, Ross and two other teammates had finished a summer-league basketball game in Williamsport and were heading back to Danville. They were just a few miles away from home, in the middle of a rainstorm, when an oncoming car lost control. The teens’ vehicle was hit head-on before anyone even knew what was happening.
The teammates who had been in the backseat, David (Alex’s younger brother) and Kyle, managed to free themselves and call for help. But Alex and Ross were trapped, unconscious, in the wreckage.
Ross, who had been driving, was rushed to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger with several fractures, including a broken thigh bone-the strongest bone in the human body.
“Ross knew he would get up and walk and play sports again,”says David McKinley, MD, Director of Pediatric Critical Care. “He wasn’t going to let this hold him down for long.”
It would take an additional two weeks of intense rehabilitation at Geisinger Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital before Ross was finally released and able to go home to his friends and family.
“Ross always wanted to be pushed. If you asked him to do a certain exercise, he always wanted to do more than what was asked,” states Rebecca Betz, physical therapist at Geisinger Healthsouth. “He was very motivated and when faced with any kind of challenge, he would not back down.”
Alex, the front-seat passenger, also was rushed to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, suffering from a severe head injury. He was unresponsive for more than 10 days. Then, finally, Alex reached for a popsicle that his mother was holding at his bedside. It was the first time since the accident that Alex showed any signs of consciousness. He would spend four more days in the hospital before launching a long and extensive rehabilitation program.
“He had sustained a significant injury, one that sometimes leads to limited or no recovery,” recalls Pediatric Critical Care Specialist, Richard Lambert, MD. “It’s remarkable that he has done so well since he didn’t respond to anyone for such a long time.”
Even though Alex and Ross were hospitalized with very different injuries and their experiences at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital were not entirely the same, there was one thing that they did have in common…support from the community. Whether it was a friend from high school or a neighbor, the teens almost never went a day without having somebody check up on them.
They don’t remember most of the events that occurred after the accident, but they do remember visitors arriving almost every day.
“(The recovery) was hard. But my friends have been the silver lining,” states Alex.
And even though they wouldn’t be playing in the 2010 season, when the Ironmen prepared for their first game, Alex and Ross proudly led them onto the field – not just as teammates, but as a reminder of how much you can achieve with the support of a community behind you.
Alex will be graduating from high school in June of 2011. His future plans are to graduate college and become a physical therapist. He would also like to continue his involvement in football through coaching. Ross will return to Danville Area High School in the fall to finish his senior year. After graduation, Ross intends to pursue a career in nursing.