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11/4/2012 6:01:00 AM
Tough guy will be tested in his recovery
Kingman High senior suffered serious head injury at Prescott Valley
Kingman High’s Derek Curran (78) and Matt Waite bring down Flagstaff’s Marshall Brownfield during the Bulldogs 36-18 Homecoming loss on Sept. 28. Curran suffered a seizure on the sidelines during KHS’s season-ending win against Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain last week. Curran is still in a Phoenix hospital and faces a potentially long recovery.
Kingman High’s Derek Curran (78) and Matt Waite bring down Flagstaff’s Marshall Brownfield during the Bulldogs 36-18 Homecoming loss on Sept. 28. Curran suffered a seizure on the sidelines during KHS’s season-ending win against Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain last week. Curran is still in a Phoenix hospital and faces a potentially long recovery.

Rodney Haas
Miner Sports Reporter

In an instant, Derek Curran's life was changed forever.

One minute he was one of the tough guys, a hard-nosed senior who battled the big players inside as an offensive tackle when he wasn't making plays as a defensive end. It was his final high school football game, but he had dreams of playing in college.

The next, he was on the sidelines having a seizure, his dream dead and his road paved with uncertainties as he begins the path to re-learn the basics of life.

It's been a week since Curran was stricken during the third quarter of the Bulldogs' 24-17 win over Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott Valley.

It's been a series of ups and downs for the Kingman High student and his family since he was airlifted from Yavapai Medical Center to Phoenix's St. Joseph's Medical Center. He was still in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit on Friday afternoon, according to his mother, Jan Curran.

On life support

Curran was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma in Prescott, and when he arrived in Phoenix, doctors put him into a medically-induced coma and on life support, which Jan said is just protocol for the type of injury her son sustained.

"They have to induce the coma, put the breathing tube in and get him to relax to let the brain recover," Jan said. "It's just part of the process for that type of brain injury.

"Life support when people think of it is when you can't breathe on your own and they have to breathe for you. When you have a brain injury, sometimes the brain is so injured that you forget to breathe, you're too agitated to relax the heart rate, and they have to relax the brain because the pressure makes the brain injury worse."

Doctors brought Curran out of the coma and removed the ventilator on Wednesday, but he is still weak after contracting pneumonia and having a temperature of 103 degrees for three straight days.

"His lungs were very infected, he might have had some illness before. Of course, laying on the bed and on the ventilator that didn't help," Jan said. "He's unable to regulate his own temperature and was unable to eat. He's just started eating. He ate some mashed potatoes but he can't drink liquids yet and he's not swallowing yet."

Full recovery

It may sound like Curran is in rough shape, but Jan says that doctors are optimistic of a full recovery. However, it's still too early to tell if there will be any long lasting effects.

"He is showing improvement every day," she said. "He's talking, he's remembering people and moving his arms and legs. But he has to go to a rehabilitation center."

Doctors were hopeful that Curran could be released from ICU this weekend and admitted into the hospital's neurological rehab center, where they specialize in treating people who have had strokes, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.

But while this is a positive step for him, it's also the first step to recovery. According to Jan, he is going to have speech, occupational and physical therapy.

"He has a long road ahead," said Jan, who is an occupational therapist herself. "He can't sit up on his own, he can't balance himself. They have to help him into a chair. He hasn't walked yet. So they will have to teach him how to walk, teach him how to feed himself, teach him to prepare for simple things in life."

Curran's return to Kingman will depend on how he progresses with his rehabilitation, Jan said. She has seen patients take two weeks, but sometimes it's taken four or eight weeks.

However, recovery time does raise the question of school work Curran's missed. According to KHS athletic director John Venenga, Curran was on track to graduate in December and the school will find a way to make sure he does graduate.

"We will work with him and his family," Venenga said. "We will make sure he gets the credits."

How Curran suffered the injury is still a mystery - there is not a play to point to when he was hit hard on the head. With 7:16 left in the third quarter and the Bulldogs leading 18-17, Curran came off the field acting confused and KHS athletic trainer Jenny Harpest started to check him out on the sidelines.

"The sports trainer was excellent," Jan said. "She attempted to assess him when he said his head was hurting really bad."

Curran was arguing that he could go back into the game when he collapsed.

Paramedics at the game started to care for him - giving him IVs as the game was delayed anywhere from 20 minutes to a half-hour.

Jan didn't travel to Prescott for the game and was informed by Venenga, who called her from the scene and relayed information to the paramedics treating her son.

"I haven't met the paramedics, I wish there was a way to thank them," she said. "I guess they treated him like he was their own kid and they wanted to make sure he got the best care and did what ever they needed to."

It was around 9 p.m. when Jan got the call from Venenga, and by 9:45 p.m. she had a suitcase packed and was on the road heading to Phoenix - arriving there around 12:30 a.m. She waited another two hours before Curran was stable and she could see her son.

"Thank God for smart phones," Jan joked about trying to find the hospital.

The good news, Jan said, is the insurance is going to pick up all the costs of the care and the rehabilitation. She is grateful to the Ronald McDonald House, where she has been staying all week.

"That has been a huge Godsend," she said.

Back in Kingman, Jan's husband and other son have been getting community support from their church and other community members.

"I've heard some the kids at the high school have some fundraisers to help with some of the expenses of being away," Jan said.

Time will only tell what lasting effects Derek Curran has from one hit on a Friday night in October, if he has a normal life or one filled with complications. But one thing is certain - Derek Curran won't be playing football on Saturday afternoons. The dream of playing college football died on the field in Prescott Valley on Oct. 26.

"Once you have (a head injury), the likelihood of getting another one is real and this was a bad one," Jan said. "The doctors have told me that he won't be able to play football again. I haven't told him yet. The neurosurgeon said that this was his one get out of jail free card and he used it."

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Related Stories:
• A long walk back to normal for Kingman's Derek Curran

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012
Article comment by: Tina Meyer

Continued prayers for Derek and his family!

Posted: Sunday, November 4, 2012
Article comment by: David Gaither

I have a Grandson that just started playing football on the JV team. I have strongly urged him to take up a safer sport, (such as auto racing,lol)! Maybe he will look at Derek's situation and take my advice....nah.

Derek, our prayers are with you for a full recovery. I believe God has an important job for you in your lifetime, so keep your spirit up!

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