Back in the Game: Brain Injury Survivor Returns to Sports
It's been less than a year since Oak Forest student Alex Fitzgerald, 13, was struck by a car and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. On Dec. 9, family and friends witnessed him back in action on the basketball court.
The clock started, the ball was tipped and Lisa Fitzgerald held her breath. She watched as the ball fell into her son's hands and he drove for a layup.
Alex put his team on the board—but the points marked a more momentous occasion for the 13-year-old and all those who love him. His coach stopped play to congratulate Alex on his first game back since sustaining a brain injury after being struck by a car in April.
Alex was hospitalized for weeks and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation.
"I felt myself holding my breath," said Lisa Fitzgerald. "It's very exciting ... I'm pretty nervous.
"I'm happy for him, he's been waiting to get back."
Friends and family who stood behind "Fitz" during his recovery showed support again Dec. 9, wearing baby blue in honor of their hero. Fans' breath caught in their throats as Alex dove after loose balls and leapt for a steal or rebound.
He doesn't seem to fully grasp how far he's come, Fitgerald said. But she won't soon forget seeing her son in a coma, then in recovery after surgery, and each moment of slow progress that would follow.
"He doesn't get it, maybe because of his age," she said said. While Alex would like to be doing more, watching her son dribble and drive so soon was a bit surreal for Fitzgerald, when just months earlier she was waiting anxiously to hear him speak again.
"Anything before April is a bonus," she said.
She can easily recall a community rallying behind her son and nights spent at his bedside, instead of in the bleechers.
Alex finished with 9 points in the game, including a three-pointer in the second half. His fans snapped photos during and after the game, to document the moment. He received the game ball, signed by his teammates and coaches. Playing again felt great, Alex said. But the show of support?
"I never would have expected it," he said.
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