By Felix Cunningham
Last week press conferences were held at both the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia and at Southern University with hopeful updates on junior wide receiver, Devon Gales.
Gales, a former prep standout at Central High, was injured in the Jaguars’ game against Georgia on September 26 after colliding with Bulldogs’ kicker Marshall Morgan on a kick return. Gales suffered neck fractures and was sent to the hospital immediately after the on-field collision.
At the hospital, Gales underwent surgery to remove the broken bone in his spinal cord, and it was replaced with a scaffold on September 27.
The four and a half hour surgery performed by Dr. Kimberly P. Walpert was a success, and the scaffold was put in place to ensure that Gales is stabilized before he proceeds through the next stages of the recovery process.
After staying in Athens for three days, Gales was moved into the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for further care and rehabilitation.
Founded in 1975, the Shepherd Center is considered one of the ten best rehabilitation centers for spinal cord injuries in the country.
Georgia football head coach Mark Richt has proclaimed that more support will be added for Gales and his family in the near future.
“There may come a time when the Bulldog Nation can really get behind him and his family and I know we’ll need that too,” Richt said.
Southern University President-Chancellor Ray Belton penned a letter last week thanking the UGA community for the hospitality shown to a Southern player and for the care that Athens and the Shepherd Center has given to Gales.
Initial reports are that it will be approximately 8-10 weeks before Gales can undergo any type of physical therapy.
As of now, Gales can move his upper body, particularly on his dominant right side.
“Neurologic accidents tend to heal very slowly,” said Dr. Brock Bowman, MD, associate medical director of the Shepherd Center. “It’s still really early and it could be weeks or months for initial recovery.
“For the next weeks we have to move back to square one with simple procedures, then it’s getting up to get in a chair, find his center of gravity that is located in the stomach area, and I know he’s up for the challenge for the goal,” Bowman said.
“We want him to be independent before he gets into the next level of goals and it’s something we take advantage of everyday.”
Southern interim athletic director Roman Banks remarked on Gales’ positivity and heroism through this tribulation.
“I was there to go with him initially, and he asked immediately if he could receive a medical redshirt and that brought me back to reality,” Banks said. “I understand that he will fight through it.”
Kimberly August, a family spokeswoman and Southern alumna who lives in Atlanta spoke highly about Gales.
“[Devon is] a wonderful son, brother, nephew, and student athlete and with the phone calls he received, he was consoling those on the phone that were angry. That’s what type of person he is,” August said.
August also asked for prayers for Georgia’s kicker, Marshall Morgan, the kicker who collided with Gales, and his family.
“This affected both men and will change their lives forever,” August said.
Back in Baton Rouge, the Southern University football team prepares to face Alabama State this weekend in Montgomery, Alabama with Gales in their minds and hearts.
“We are going into every game honoring him,” halfback Malcolm Crockett said. “Hopefully we go into the Celebration Bowl and he will be there with us.”
A fund has been created by Southern University Athletics and the Southern University System Foundation to provide financial assistance for Devon Gales and his family to help cover medical expenses. For more information and to donate, visit www.gojagsports.com.
In the meantime, the 5 foot 9, 158 pound player will be moving forward with all of his heart and might and with a Southern jersey to boot.