Saturday, September 27, 2003

Injured athlete voted homecoming king

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Linda and Jeff Harrell talk about their son, Jared "Jed" Harrell, during a press conference at Children's Hospital Medical Center Friday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
LAWRENCEBURG - The fighting Tigers crowned their quarterback homecoming king Friday while he lay miles away in a hospital bed with a brain injury so severe it could just as well have killed him on that same football field.

Virtually everyone in Lawrenceburg High School's stadium wore Jared Harrell's face on a T-shirt or a button. They pinned black and orange No. 4s to their clothes. They cheered as the announcer said what everyone already knew: that the team chose Jared homecoming king.

His best friend, Donald Fahey, stood on the field in Jared's place, holding his jersey.

It was the same place where, a week before, the crowd watched as the 17-year-old senior quarterback threw a pass, then doubled over and passed out. Jared has been in Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center since. But Friday night, students were buzzing about the last thing they heard before they left school - a message over the PA system from athletic department assistant Judy Reese, who said Jared was out of a coma.

She was the same one who had to take the microphone Tuesday and tell the school Jared was critically hurt and that students shouldn't visit. Happy this time to be able to spread good news, she ended her Friday announcement with an impromptu "Hallelujah."

"He'd want to be here and kill the other team,'' said Kacey Seymour, homecoming queen. "He's a great guy. We're just all really pulling for him.''

The cityis too.

Pee Wee football players collected donations in their helmets. Tiger Pride, the athletic boosters, donated their half of Friday's split-the-pot to the family and encouraged the winner to do the same. United Community Bank opened a fund for Jared's family.Jared's dad, Jeff, got hugs and pats on the back from everyone who passed him. "It's all good today,'' he told them. Some were surprised to see him. "Oh, I had to be here,'' he said.

He thought Jared was just upset last week when he watched as his son took off his helmet and leaned over, his hands on his knees. Jared had just thrown an intercepted pass and the Tigers were about to lose 14-13 to visiting Franklin County. Then Jared vomited and passed out. His dad knew it was serious when Dr. Jim Swanson, the team physician, called Dearborn County Hospital on his cell phone and told them to have their Air Care helicopter waiting to take Jared to Children's.

When the helicopter was 10 minutes away, Children's woke up their top neurosurgeon, Dr. Kerry Crone. He drained the blood from Jared's brain, found the bleeding artery that had been torn and repaired it - a process that has to go fairly quickly before the brain gets "angry,'' Crone said, and swells.

This life-threatening injury, Crone said, is rare in any kind of sports, high school or professional. It's more common, he said, in high-speed car accidents.

It's too soon to predict Jared's future. He was hoping for a college scholarship in a different sport - baseball. A pitcher, he won an honorable mention all-state selection last year.

But it's very good news, the neurosurgeon said, that just a week into his treatment, Jared can nod his head and stick out his tongue on command. He's off the respirator and out of a coma, and Thursday he opened his eyes without being agitated to do so.

His mom, Linda, is thinking about what she might say if Jared ever wants to play sports again. She joked that he'd look really funny on the basketball court or the baseball field with the gigantic metal helmet she'd like to make him wear.

And when he wants to go hunting the next time, she said she'll tell him not to do it from up in any tree stands. She doesn't want him falling out on his head.

For now, she's just happy that he - without being asked - gave her a kiss.

"Boy, I tell you what,'' she said. "That just made my life."

And to everyone in Lawrenceburg, she said thank you and that it's too bad Jared doesn't know just how much his hometown is pulling for him.

"He's a typical 17-year-old," she said. "He would really be living off all this attention. He's a big ham."

Teammates Josh Courter and Jimmy Knue took Jared's crown Friday night. They plan to take it to him at the hospital.

"It really helped when we heard he was out of the coma," said Miranda Boyles, a fellow senior. "Everyone was like, Oh, thank God. I just really hope he gets better."

Anna Michaels contributed to this story.


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