September 18 was an ordinary Thursday. School went by without anything noteworthy. Then at 7 p.m. I got home from working at a friend's pumpkin patch, and as I got out of my car my mother called me from the front door. Instantly I could tell that something had happened. I got inside and she told me that Nate Mays got hurt playing football.
I have known Nate since elementary school, and he has always been a big strong guy. I was devastated. How could Nate get hurt in the very first Beaverton football game he had played in this year? News filtered into our home that Nate could not feel anything from the neck down, and he had been rushed into emergency surgery at OHSU. He had taken a hit, which bruised his brain and resulted in blood pressuring his brain.
I decided to go up to OHSU be with Nate's parents, Marianna and David Mays, and the other classmates who I had heard were already there. I arrived at OHSU around 8:30 p.m. and there were three teachers and five students there. We prayed for Nate's health and his parents being able to cope with the injury to their only child.
By midnight, when Nate came out of surgery, there were over 50 students who there to support Nate. Many more parents, coaches and teachers came to illustrate their concern and care for Nate. Even teachers from junior high had shown up.
The late night nurses saw the immense outpouring of love that this small community showed for a single student and his family and knew something was special about this kid and this 'family.'
The next day by 7 a.m., before Nate went into another operation to remove the pipe that had to be inserted to keep the pressure on the brain at a minimum, 100 students gathered in the Westside parking lot to pray for him. With only 250 students in the entire student body, this was a huge blessing to the Mays.
By Friday night, Nate was on the road to healing. Students from Westside and Beaverton showed up throughout the weekend to keep Nate's parents company as he slept off the huge surgeries. Nate made an amazingly quick recovery, leaving the hospital on the following Monday.
On the following Tuesday, Sept. 29, Nate and his family met with the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr. Michael Liu. On their first follow-up meeting since the surgery, Dr. Liu was taken aback by Nate's rapid improvement. Some patients have a quicker recovery due to their physical health prior to the injury, but Nate's drastic progress blew away the timetables set by people before him. Most of the patients that endure this kind of injury cannot ever go back to playing competitive sports, much less contact sports.
Nate was a first team all-state catcher as a sophomore for Westside and his future was bright with many colleges expressing interest including Washington State, Oregon and others. In the state championship game last year, Nate went 4-4 with three RBIs and a run scored against the state Player of the Year. His bright future in sports would have been fragile at best following such a severe surgery, but Dr. Liu said Nate could again play baseball by the time the 2009 season commences. The week following his injury, Nate visited a cognitive therapist, speech therapist and physical therapist, all confirming the already positive results.
Make no mistake; Nate is not such an extraordinary person that he could conquer this by himself. He was backed by the hundreds of supporters who prayed for him in his time of need, backed by all the people who dropped by his hospital room that first weekend, backed by all the people who continue to come over and help him through these times when his physical strength was all but gone.
Nate's recovery will be an uphill climb - there is medicine to prevent seizures and roadblocks on the journey back to baseball. But going from having a 50-50 chance of coming out without handicap to the potential of playing in state playoff baseball this coming spring is surely one to inspire.