Olathe East senior James McGinnis is showing progress in his recovery from a brain injury he suffered on the football field, and he could return home from a rehabilitation hospital by Christmas, his father said Tuesday.
McGinnis collapsed during a game against Olathe South on Sept. 12, after his head collided with the hip of an opposing player and caused a subdural hematoma, or bleeding in the lining of his brain.
He underwent emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and reduce swelling around his brain, spent the next two weeks in the intensive care unit at Overland Park Regional Medical Center and then was transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., where Patrick McGinnis says his son has experienced steady progression.
“Intellectually, he’s there. He’s fully there,” Patrick said. “In fact, in his therapy he does tutoring, and part of his tutoring includes review of math and algebraic formulas. What’s interesting about that is many times he’s doing the answers in his head, and the tutor will go through and pull out the calculator and make sure he’s right.
“He’s never missed one since I’ve been there.”
James McGinnis was the recipient of the fourth annual Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award during the Simone Awards ceremony Tuesday, an honor Patrick accepted on his behalf while James remained in Lincoln.
McGinnis still has swelling on his brain, but he is able to communicate with his family, even though his speech is slurred. Patrick said he has noticed very few changes in his son’s personality and says James has “maintained his sense of humor through it all.”
Most of James’ limitations are physical. He is unable to walk on his own and cannot swallow food or drink water. He will also need to relearn to write and speak.
Doctors have told the McGinnis family that James could potentially make a full recovery, but that journey will take a couple of years, if not longer, Patrick said.
McGinnis, a linebacker at Olathe East, suffered the injury while attempting to tackle a ball-carrier. The right side of McGinnis’ head struck the player’s hip.
He remained in the game for another play, then collapsed as he was walking back to his position in the center of the field. McGinnis never stopped breathing.
His father, who was taking pictures on the sideline during the game, rushed onto the field.
“I knew it was serious when they rolled him over on the football field and I saw his eyes,” Patrick said. “Having studied and read up on other collapses on the football field, I knew the odds were against him making it.
“We always held on to every little moment that he showed improvement and really cherished those moments. We’ve been very blessed to have made it this far.”
James McGinnis hopes to return to high school sometime after the new year on a limited basis. He is three credit hours shy of graduation.
“One of his goals is to walk across the stage with his class in May,” Patrick said.