They knew that at Bronson, CJ would receive the specialized care he would need to recover.
Sixteen-year-old CJ Ross was playing a pick-up game of football with his friends in Three Rivers when his life changed forever. As he went in for a tackle, the knee of a teammate knocked CJ in the head. The second he hit the ground, both CJ and his dad knew that something was very wrong. CJ couldn’t feel his limbs and was having trouble moving his fingers and toes.
CJ’s father, Charles Ross, immediately called 911. The paramedics spine boarded CJ right away and rushed him to Three Rivers Hospital. When he arrived, CJ was taken in for an X-ray. The doctors told Charles that his son had broken his neck. “It was such an overwhelming feeling,” explained Charles. “Everything was happening so fast, I didn’t know what to do. All I could think about was how bad this was.”
The doctors at Three Rivers Hospital decided that the best option for CJ was to airlift him to Bronson Methodist Hospital. They knew that at Bronson, CJ would receive the specialized care he would need to recover. Charles and his wife drove up to Kalamazoo to meet their son. As soon as they arrived, they were taken to CJ’s room. This is when they met Dr. Gregory Wiggins of Bronson Neuroscience Center. Dr. Wiggins had run an MRI and CT scan on CJ – determining that he had not only broken his neck once, but it was snapped in three different places. “Dr. Wiggins discussed different options for CJ to move forward,” explained Charles. “CJ loves sports and he is young. We knew we wanted him to have the best chance of getting back to normal.” The Rosses decided the best option involved having Dr. Wiggins put screws in CJ’s spine. If this type of surgery is a success, the patient will have full movement of their neck upon recovery. The Rosses also knew that without this surgery, CJ could become paralyzed or have progressive neurological damage. Like all surgeries, the Rosses knew there were potential complications, but they knew Dr. Wiggins would do everything in his power to get CJ through the surgery with the best outcome possible.
Charles explained how accommodating and kind everyone at the hospital was. “There were times we had 14 or 15 people in CJ’s room at a time. Our family came in from Chicago, our minister came to pray with us, and CJ’s friends all wanted to support us. The hospital always made sure there was space for us to gather.”
The day after his accident, CJ underwent surgery. Less than an hour after the procedure started, Dr. Wiggins came out to personally tell the Rosses that CJ’s surgery went seamlessly and he was being taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for recovery. For three days, CJ remained in the ICU and had constant monitoring. He worked with an occupational therapist every day while he was in the hospital. Within three days, CJ was up and walking. “It was one of the happiest days of my life when CJ got up and walked for the first time,” explained Charles. “I was so surprised at how quickly he seemed to be recovering. Even his occupational therapist said it was remarkable how well he was doing.”
After five days in the hospital, Dr. Wiggins gave the Rosses the news that CJ was able to go home. After being released from the hospital, CJ continued to have speech therapy and occupational therapy at Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center. Charles explained how, with the help of his therapists, CJ is back to feeling like himself again. “It was only a few weeks after starting therapy that CJ was saying how he felt like he was getting back to normal.”
Looking back on their family’s experience, Charles said that he would recommend Bronson to anyone who is going to have surgery. “Everyone we came into contact with was excellent. CJ had such a great occupational therapist and Dr. Wiggins is an outstanding surgeon. He has a great personality and a way of making you feel comfortable during an incredibly hard time.” The Rosses also appreciate how helpful it has been to use Bronson MyChart throughout this time to stay on top of CJ’s medical appointments. “It has made follow-up care very easy.”
Dr. Wiggins told CJ that, unfortunately, he will never be able to play football again. But that won’t stop CJ from doing what he loves. “I would like to become a referee or a coach once I am completely better,” CJ said.