November 24, 2012 in Sports

Jerome Harrison opens up on benign brain tumor; future in football uncertain

Carlos Monarrez Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions running back Jerome Harrison spoke publicly in a televised interview on Thursday for the first time since doctors found a benign tumor on his brain last year that nixed his trade to Philadelphia.

Harrison, who is on the team’s non-football injury list, told CBS that he was incredulous when Eagles doctors first discovered the tumor in October through a normal eye exam as part of a routine physical that follows each NFL trade.

The tumor was on Harrison’s brain stem.

“He was amazed I was still up walking and talking,” said Harrison, who played college football at Washington State.

Harrison’s mind began racing. He was in Philadelphia but wanted to come home to Michigan to have emergency surgery.

“First thing that went into my head was telling myself, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to be done, but I’m going back to Detroit to be with my family,’ ” Harrison said.

Doctors first told Harrison’s family it would be a straightforward three-hour surgery and afterward he could go home. But three hours turned into 12 as complications arose.

“The tumor was not huge,” Harrison’s wife, Michelle, said. “It was the placement of the tumor. It was right on his brain stem and it was engulfed in veins.”

Michelle Harrison wept as she recalled that, at the time, her husband was declared a quadriplegic and that even his vocal chords were paralyzed.

Sitting next to his wife, Harrison smiled.

“She didn’t say one word: I didn’t ‘die,’ ” he said with a little chuckle.

Images from Harrison’ hospital stay showed him emaciated. But when his first daughter crawled into his hospital bed on Christmas Eve, Harrison was inspired to begin his physical therapy.

“He’s one of the hardest-working guys I know,” former Lions cornerback Eric Wright said. “He just has that mind-set that nothing’s going to stop him.”

In fact, Wright went from inspired to inspiring.

“He would work harder than any other patient,” said Dr. Brian Kelly, medical director of inpatient services for University of Michigan Health Systems. “And all the other patients would see this and they started working a little bit harder.

“This guy was great to have around.”

Harrison’s football future is uncertain. He is still technically a member of the team, but he appeared to have significant trouble walking during the interview.

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