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Surgeon details caring for ex-football star

Sarah Mervosh | Monday, October 6, 2008

Dr. Kevin Gibbons, a Notre Dame graduate and the neurosurgeon that directed the controversial post-surgery care of Buffalo Bills’ Kevin Everett, spoke Saturday morning about the process that allowed Everett to walk again.

Everett sustained a potentially fatal hit last September, causing him to be carried off the field by an ambulance. He initially was unable to move his arms or legs, and needed emergency surgery, according to a press release from the Dr. Tom Dooley Society for Notre Dame Medical Alumni (Dooley Society).

“After surgery, Kevin has a nearly normal spinal cord,” Gibbons said.

At the lecture, Gibbons focused on the role of the media in explaining Everett’s case and on clarifying what he said really contributed to Everett’s recovery.

After surgery, Everett was treated with hypothermia, which is controversial in spine surgeries, said Gibbons. The media focused on this method of treatment and hyped Everett’s case as miraculous.

“There was so much misinformation about Kevin Everett. All the major daily’s went and ran with the story with a lot of hyperboles and misinformation,” said Hubbard.

Gibbons spoke particularly about a story Sports Illustrated printed regarding Everett’s recovery. He said the magazine said Everett could not move, was cooled off through hypothermia, and then suddenly he could move.

Gibbons described it as a “eureka paragraph” in the story that was inaccurate. He clarified that Everett showed a small amount of movement before he was cooled down.

Gibbons instead attributed Everett’s successful treatment to factors like the nature of his injury, the promptness of diagnosis and the hospital care he received.

Sophomore Sophia Jackson, who is a pre-professional major and member of the Dooley society, attended the lecture.

“It has affected other family members who look at Kevin Everett’s story and wonder why their family member or they themselves didn’t get that treatment, but in reality, the reason Kevin Everett got better was the fast treatment and the teamwork,” she said.

Gibbons was brought to Notre Dame by the Dooley Society, which brings a speaker to Notre Dame on every home football Saturday, said Dooley Society Secretary Bridget Hubbard, a ’72 Saint Mary’s graduate, whose son, an ’02 Notre Dame graduate, took part in the founding of the society.

Hubbard said the purpose of the lecture series is to provide a “continuing education” for medical alumni and give pre-professional students an opportunity to meet Notre Dame alumni in the medical field.

“We’ve actually been able to offer continuing education credits and doctors have to have a certain number of those to keep their practices current,” said Hubbard.

Dave Cockerill, a neurosurgeon and member of the Dooley Society, said the lecture “raise[d] the awareness of spinal cord injuries.”

“The basic story to take home from this is spinal cord injuries need to be treated urgently at a trauma center by people who know what they’re doing with a team approach,” Cockerill said.