Children’s Miracle Network – DJ
One of the most frightening situations for any young athlete and their parents is a serious injury during competition. On March 13, 2018, this fear became a reality when 15-year-old baseball player and track athlete DJ sustained 4 fractures to his right leg and 3 to his left during a track competition. The broken bones included both tibias and fibulas as well as his right ankle. “At first, I didn’t really feel anything. I was just in shock,” said DJ. “But when I saw my knee where my hip was supposed to be, that’s when it sank in.”
DJ’s mother Sharon arrived at Tattnall Square Academy to pick up his sister Destiny from play practice, and that is when she learned of DJ’s injury. “When they came and told me DJ was hurt, I thought it was something minor,” she said. “But as I got closer to the field, I heard a sound – a bellow – that just pierced the inside of my body. I’d never heard anything like it.” Team medical staff acted quickly, calling for an ambulance and containing his legs with inflatable compression. “They and the coaches were trying to calm him down and console him. All he was saying was ‘Baseball. Baseball. Baseball.’”
When the paramedics arrived with the ambulance, they asked Sharon where she wanted them to take him. Without hesitation, she instructed them to take DJ to Navicent. “When we got to Navicent, the trauma team was already prepped and ready for him. I’ve never seen that many medical staffers – everyone was waiting. Surgeons, residents, everyone was ready to take care of him.” Due to the swelling in his legs, the orthopedic team decided it was best to wait for a couple of days before operating, so DJ was moved to a room at the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital Navicent Health.
The day of the accident, DJ’s father Daren was on his way home from a business trip. “When I got off the plane, I had about 30 missed calls. It was scary,” he said. “When I got to the hospital to see DJ, the first thing he did was ask me how my trip was. It just showed me how mentally strong he is.”
“They gave me everything I asked for,” said DJ with a smile. “Ice cream, activities. They always made sure I was comfortable.” He also received a visit from a Georgia beauty queen and a call from former Tattnall and Georgia Tech star DeAndre Smelter. “We FaceTimed and played Fortnite together. It was great.”
DJ’s surgery was completed two days after the accident, and DJ was discharged the following day. The Children’s Hospital medical staff was there for the DJ and his family every step of the way. DJ’s mother Sharon said “The nurses could just sense when I needed to step out and shed some tears. A nurse would sit with DJ and another would be there to console me in the hall.”
Following the successful surgery, DJ was required to be in a wheelchair for 8 weeks and needed assistance with virtually all of his daily activities. “We had to turn him every hour. He’d fall asleep and we’d have to wake him up and move him,” said Sharon, who took 2 months off work to care for him. “I don’t think we slept in our own bed for 2 months.”
Likewise, Daren took 3 months off work. “He wanted to go back to school early, so we’d take turns staying with him at school since he required total care,” he said. “But the experience made us closer as a family, and DJ stayed positive the entire time. He didn’t feel sorry for himself once and the thought of not playing baseball again didn’t even come into his mind.”
The extra care didn’t stop after DJ was discharged from the hospital, however. “When we got home, the Tattnall family had already built a wheelchair ramp for him. The baseball moms set up a food train for us so that our entire family had a meal before 6:00 p.m. every night. We even received support from others in the community,” said Sharon. “Coaches and players from FPD visited, and so did people from Mercer.”
Once DJ was back on his feet and able to start his physical therapy, his school’s athletic trainer worked with him free of charge for 2 to 3 hours a day. “We do things like jumping rope, jogging, and cone drills. My range of motion was at 60 degrees when I first started back in May when I first started – now I’m up to 135 degrees,” said DJ, who is planning to return to the baseball diamond at 100% this coming spring. His final surgery took place on November 20 to remove the hardware from his legs. Following his 2-week post-op visit, he was cleared to resume regular activities and he plans on returning to baseball this spring.
The whole family is thrilled and beyond thankful to those who aided them during such a difficult experience. Sharon can’t believe the support they received. “It takes a community. Situations like this are proof of that. You just don’t think about these things until they happen to you.”
A doctor herself, Sharon pointed out the level of care DJ received. “It was overwhelming. I work in the medical field and to see this level of care was incredible. I highly recommend the Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital to anyone who has experienced any type of trauma. I think that’s the place children need to be.”
“It was just an awesome experience,” said Daren, nodding. “They were very positive, and the staff was outstanding. They made everything calm.”
“I still can’t get over the nurses letting that entire baseball team come and see him,” said Sharon with a chuckle. “I couldn’t believe it. Thank God for Navicent.”
Robins Financial Credit Union has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network to raise money during a 6-week campaign that we are calling Miracle May. Help us reach our $30,000 fundraising goal to help kids like DJ receive the treatment they need.
To make a donation, stop by any of our branches or call our Call Center. Branches will also host special fundraising events every Friday during the campaign. Help us create more miracles for children in our community through Children’s Miracle Network.