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Wharton High football player thanks medical staff for saving his life

TAMPA — Sean McNamee has had a lot of good days since the bad one that nearly took his life almost two months ago. Wednesday was one of the good days.

The 16-year-old Wharton football player chatted with the nurses who helped save his life, hugged the surgeon who operated on him and regaled the team that continues to help him recover from a life-threatening brain injury with tales of life in recovery, including a recap of Wharton's playoff game last week.

"Sean is a miracle kid, there's no two ways about it," said Dr. James Orlowski, chief of pediatrics at Florida Hospital Tampa.

At a news conference in the hospital's Wallace Conference Center, McNamee made his first public comments since his injury. Afterward he posed for pictures in a celebration of the efforts of the doctors and nurses who saved his life.

McNamee sat at a table with neurosurgeon Yoav Ritter, his parents Todd and Jody, and family attorney Steve Yerrid.

McNamee, dressed in a blue Wharton polo shirt and jeans, was very at ease. He removed the light brown protective headgear, revealing a large scar on the left side of his head.

"Good morning," he started. "I am Sean McNamee and I am very lucky to be here."

Speaking with occasional but brief pauses between words, he read a prepared statement and thanked friends and teachers at Wharton, his family and the community for their prayers.

The news conference marked six weeks to the day McNamee, while playing catch with teammates before a football practice, hit his head on a paint machine used to line the field. McNamee was not wearing his football helmet; the collision fractured his skull and required emergency surgery that night to remove bloody tissue and reduce the swelling in his brain.

He was in an induced coma for nine days.

Sandra Brady, the nurse manager of PICU and pediatrics, was in the room — along with her team, doctors and the McNamee family — when McNamee was taken off the ventilator for the first time. Despite hopes that all the pieces were in place, she said the room was steeled for a "favorable or unfavorable" outcome.

"It is the moment," she said, "and he flew."

Wednesday, McNamee continued to spread his wings, walking around the Wallace Center, shaking hands, talking, looking like a regular kid.

A large piece of McNamee's skull was removed during surgery and placed in his abdomen to allow the brain room to swell.

McNamee stepped out from behind the podium, lifted his shirt to show the media the scar on his stomach where the skull piece remains.

The crowd chuckled.

He was smiling.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com.

Wharton High football player thanks medical staff for saving his life 11/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 8:17pm]
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