BATON ROUGE - One kick, one block can change a life forever.
A third quarter kickoff in the Georgia Dome in September forever changed the life of one man.
“I remember the whole thing. Going to block, putting my head down, and knowing that I couldn’t get up.”
On Sept. 26, Southern University Wide receiver Devon Gales was carted off the field after a collision during a kickoff against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Gales suffered several fractures in his neck in what doctors described as a "burst injury." One day later he underwent surgery.
Doctors described a long road to recovery, full of therapy.
“A guy, a warrior like Devon Gales…I mean my money is on Devon,” Central High School football coach Sid Edwards said. “He’s going to attack this as ferociously as he attacked the football field.”
And he did attack it.
For the next five months, Gales new home was Shepherd Medical Center in Atlanta. There, for up to six days a week, he worked with therapists from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said he felt like he was at work. His recovery had become a full-time job.
“The workouts start as soon as I wake up,” he said. “I’m going to walk, in just a matter of time.”
His team of doctors gushed about Gales, his infectious personality and determination as he spent months relearning basic skills.
"It felt like the Lord was giving me a chance at walking again. Little by little," Gales said.
“The odds are not good that he’s going to get back full use of his arms and legs,” Dr. Brock Bowman, associated medical director at Shepherd Medical Center, said.
It’s a challenge most could never imagine, but his doctors and therapists say Devon is something special.
"I think he has a pretty good handle that this is a relatively big injury and he may not be able to erase it, and he probably won't baring some kind of miracle, but he says, 'alright, I still have a life to live, I still have an impact. There are ways that I can still positively impact those around me,'" Bowman said.
Between rehab sessions, Gales also spent time with the Georgia Bulldogs football team. He even became a fan.
During his time in Atlanta, he was invited to football practices, basketball games and the UGA Gala. But the place he really wanted to go to was home.
After five months of recovery, doctors set a date for Gales to return home. After one last therapy session, Gales Graduated from the Shepherd Medical Center on Feb. 24.
From the medical center he traveled to the University of Georgia. In the Thursday press conference the charity Triumph Over Tragedy announced that it was raising money to build Gales and his family a new home that could accommodate the equipment needed for rehab.
Click HERE to learn more about the foundation and support the effort.
Gales said he has not let his injury define him.
"The Lord chose me for something. He wanted me to use other people to get to him. I'm not mad, there's nothing to be mad for," said Gales. "You always have that day when you're doing to be sad or something, and somebody else is going to have that good day, so why not pick that other person up."
His journey through recovery is far from over. Every day is better than the last, he said. As for the future, Gales believes he will not be in a wheelchair forever.
"I will walk again; by the faith of the Lord and the support of everybody from Georgia, Southern University, my family, and everybody across the world that's been praying for me," Gales said.
Gales will return to Baton Rouge on March 5th.
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