PHOENIX -- A Kingman High School football player is thankful to be alive this Thanksgiving.
On October 26, 17-year-old Derek Curran was playing in a game at Bradshaw Mountain when he was hit. He said that Kingman's athletic trainer thought she noticed something wasn't quite right.
"She was talking to me and I said ‘No, no, I'm fine," Curran said. "I put my mouthpiece in and went to go back out onto the field and started having seizures right there."
Curran said that he doesn't remember the hit. He said the hit that caused the damage could have actually happened in practice in the days before the game, but the in-game hit then brought on the seizure.
A paramedic worked on him on the field. He was then airlifted to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where it was determined that trauma from the hit had caused his brain to hemorrhage and shear -- that's a severe brain injury that can result in death.
He was in critical condition.
"The first week that I was in the intensive care unit, I was in an induced coma," Curran said.
Doctors said they did that to relieve the pressure on his brain. They said that Curran is lucky because his brain had stopped bleeding and started to heal on its own.
Doctors said Curran has now made a remarkable recovery, with no paralysis. He faces therapy, but will be going home in a few days.
Curran knows he's lucky to be alive.
"I could have been gone within five or ten minutes of having that seizure," he said. "I'm very thankful that there was a paramedic that happened to be there at the game, and all of my sports trainers were all able to get taken care of and ready to go for the medical hospital."
With the game in Prescott Valley, it was the athletic trainer who called Derek's mom, who was back home in Kingman.
Jan Curran said she immediately drove to Phoenix to be with her son.
With her son now on the road to recovery, Curran said Thursday will be a very special Thanksgiving for her entire family.
"The whole perspective of being thankful has entirely changed for me," said Jan. "I've had people say to me ‘Aren't you going to miss that you're not going to have Thanksgiving dinner this year?' I say I can eat McDonalds. I really could care less. I am so glad that he's here. I'm so glad that he's recovering so quickly and that he'll probably be able to get back to his life as he knew it before."
Derek said his story should be an example to other high school football players. He said if any athlete is feeling signs of a concussion or head injury, speak up. As Curran knows, there's no point trying to hide it from anyone. After all, it could cost you your life.
Derek's dream of playing college football is over. Doctors have instructed him not to play football again.
But that won't stop him from playing sports.
Derek says he'll play for Kingman High's baseball team as soon as he gets back home.
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