Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

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

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Luke Del Rio regains UF starting job, for now


    GAINESVILLE — Luke Del Rio is once again the starting quarterback for No. 21 Florida.

    Luke Del Rio provided a needed spark when he replaced starter Feleipe Franks and rallied Florida past Kentucky.
  2. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-named prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  3. Nine Florida football players, 62 felony complaints in fraud scandal


    GAINESVILLE — The fraud scandal that has engulfed the University of Florida's nationally ranked football team for weeks exploded Monday with the first detailed accounts of criminal accusations that threaten to derail the Gators' season.

    Florida Gators wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) runs the ball during the Outback Bowl in January at Raymond James Stadium. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  4. Where Rays shortstop Matt Duffy's lost season leads

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — In a perfect world Matt Duffy would have been in New York on Monday with his Rays teammates enjoying the final off day of the year. Instead, he was on Field 4 at Pirate City on a sweltering afternoon, trying to restart his season.

    Rays shortstop Matt Duffy plays in his first game (since rehab was aborted) with the club's instructional league on Monday at the Pirate City baseball field and spring training complex in Bradenton [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. Vinny Lecavalier's jersey retirement will be another classic Vinny moment

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — He was the face of the franchise. He was taken first overall in the 1998 NHL Draft by a franchise at the bottom. Art Williams, the nutty Tampa Bay Lightning owner at the time, proclaimed the 18-year-old from Ile Bizard, a Montreal borough, "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

    Vincent Lecavalier makes a break for the net while playing an exhibition game on Sunday (9/24/17) with the 2017 U.S. Women???‚??„?s National Team at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Lecavalier was the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2000???‚??€œ2001 season and between the 2008???‚??€œ2013 and spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.