Meet SJ, a remarkable young athlete who embodies the spirit of determination and resilience. As the quarterback for his junior youth football team in Winslow, Arizona, he is no stranger to the exhilaration of competition and the thrill of leading his teammates to victory. However, in September 2022, a pivotal moment unfolded during a game against the neighboring Show Low team. In the heat of action, as SJ carried the ball, an opposing player delivered a forceful tackle, using his helmet to spear SJ's leg. The impact was jarring, and the football field quickly became a flurry of concern and urgency as coaches and family rushed to SJ's side.
SJ’s mom, Nicole, says, “By the time I got to SJ on the field, the trainers were also down there and told me he had no pedal pulse in his leg, and his thigh was clearly sticking out the wrong way.” She adds that officials had to cut off SJ's football gear and pull on his leg to get blood flow back to his foot until paramedics came.
SJ was swiftly transported by air to Flagstaff Medical Center. Upon arrival, the emergency room doctors confirmed a transverse femur fracture and initiated the process of setting SJ's bone by administering an anesthesia drip to ensure his comfort.
However, fate intervened when an orthopedic doctor was summoned to the emergency room but couldn't treat SJ as a pediatric patient. He referred SJ to Phoenix Children's. “We were brought to Phoenix Children’s by ambulance from FMC, and every day, I’m so grateful for that decision,” Nicole says.
From the moment SJ arrived at the hospital, his dedicated care team sprang into action, prioritizing his comfort and well-being. They swiftly scheduled him for surgery the next morning, ensuring he would receive the necessary treatment as soon as possible. He had two rods and screws skillfully placed, spanning from his knee to hip bones; and after three days of diligent care, SJ was deemed ready for discharge.
He returned to Winslow where his community greeted him with an outpouring of love and a homecoming celebration worthy of a true sports celebrity.
Since his injury, SJ's had several follow-up visits with his care team at Phoenix Children’s, and he undergoes physical therapy twice a week at a Winslow facility. He will have the rods removed in July 2023 and will continue visiting Phoenix Children’s to ensure his injury heals completely.
Nicole says, “SJ is motivated and determined to get back to 100%. His love for football has not been shaken or changed from this injury, and he says all the time that this will not stop him from getting to the NFL someday!”
- “That day changed me forever. Not knowing if my son would ever walk, run, or play sports again after he lives and breathes for sports was one of the hardest days of my life. But his comeback has shown there is nothing that can stop him from doing what he loves to do.”NicoleSJ's mom
Phoenix Children’s Patient Ambassadors are a valiant bunch—they’ve shown immense strength amidst great setbacks. They’re also athletes, intellectuals, artists and the best siblings.
Even though their lives are full of medical appointments, they want to help other patients. Each Ambassador has created a fundraising page to support Phoenix Children’s. Consider donating to SJ's fund today.