Unbeknownst to even himself, Kevin Bridge was a walking time bomb. Fortunately, it was discharged before a serious or fatal injury.
A week ago during a preseason high school football jamboree, Bridge, a standout athlete at Lakeland High School, was doing what he normally does: catching passes and making tackles.
Instead of doing the same Friday night in Lakeland’s season-opening game at Post Falls, Bridge, a senior, was at Kootenai Medical Center recovering from neck surgery.
After his recovery, which will include three months in a neck brace, Bridge will be able to resume his regular activities.
For that, Bridge is very thankful.
Had his broken neck not been discovered, Bridge’s future wouldn’t have been as bright.
Doctors called the surgery successful Thursday, but Bridge, 17, was experiencing pain Friday before being moved out of intensive care. He was unable to be interviewed.
Bridge, however, listened to Friday’s game on the radio, his mother, Ruth, said.
The freak injury was discovered in an unusual way. Bridge and his girlfriend, Angie Tweedy, were in a truck accident Monday when his girlfriend lost control of her truck on a gravel road and it hit a tree. Neither were injured.
But they went to KMC for precautionary X-rays and were released.
The doctor who examined Bridge called back Tuesday morning and told Bridge something was wrong. Bridge went back to the hospital.
More X-rays were taken and Bridge, again, was sent home.
Two hours later, however, Bridge was told he had a broken neck and he should return to the hospital.
Doctors say the injury did not occur in the accident, but some time much earlier in his life. Perhaps as early as birth, Ruth Bridge said.
“I’m grateful for the car accident,” she said Friday at the hospital. “We’re still finding it hard to believe. Kevin’s guardian angel has been working overtime, I believe.”
Specifically, Bridge underwent surgery to repair a broken vertebrae. Doctors took a piece of bone from one of his hips and fused it to the vertebrae closest to his head.
The reason doctors believe the injury was old is because of the condition of the broken bone. It was rounded off, almost polished-like, not splintered or jagged like a fresh break.
An All-Intermountain League defensive back last season, Bridge was one of a handful of returners at Lakeland. He likely would have caught a few passes in spot duty at wide receiver, too.
Ruth Bridge said the family isn’t sure how Kevin may have broken his neck.
“When he was 8 or 9, he fell out of a tree and broke his clavicle. But he was seen and released at the hospital,” she said. “Last year he hurt his shoulder in football. But he’s never complained of any neck pain.”
Kevin’s best sport is baseball, and doctors are hopeful he will be able to play in the spring.
Ironically, Bridge plays baseball as aggressively as he does football. He dives for catches and slides routinely into bases.
Hawks head football coach Terry Kiefer had been impressed with Bridge during preseason practices.
“I was telling somebody the other day there are not many kids that have made the improvement from their junior to season like Kevin,” Kiefer said. “He would have been one of the better receivers we have had here in a long time.”
But like Bridge, Kiefer was thankful the injury was detected before it was too late.
“It would have been 100 percent devastating if something would have happened on the football field, or anywhere else, for that matter,” Kiefer said. “The doctors were saying if he had just moved his head slightly the wrong way he would have been paralyzed.”
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