Tulane University safety Devon Walker, who suffered a broken neck against Tulsa on Saturday, was “alert and responsive,” when addressed by family and friends on Monday, according to Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson.
Walker was transported to St. Francis Hospital, where on Sunday he underwent three hours of surgery to stabilize his spine. Tulane team doctor Greg Stewart told ABC the procedure was “very successful.”
“[The paralysis potential] is certainly a concern,” Stewart told the Tulsa World, “We don’t know what the ultimate outcome is going to be.”
As with any severe spine injury, hours are long and dicey and reveal frustratingly little. It will be days or weeks before Walker’s prognosis is determined. He remains in stable condition in the ICU, with significant swelling around his spine. But late on Monday, Dickson shared a touching story on a Tulane conference call.
Although Dickson could not give much in the way of a medical update, he said Devon “has not lost his sense of humor.”
Dickson shared a story of a conversation he had with one of the nurses about something very important to the 21-year-old, three-year letterman: his hair.
“I told [Devon] one of the things that almost occurred was [a nurse] cutting [his] hair,” Dickson said. “I wanted him to know I put up a fight.”
Dickson said Walker glanced up from his hospital bed and “gave me that look: ‘Really? Did she really say that?’ ”
Then he smiled.
Asked if Walker’s hair was cut, Dickson gave a vociferous, “No!”
The crown of Walker’s helmet collided with that of a teammate as the two tried to make a tackle, and it was clear Walker was seriously injured. “We quickly realized it was a significant event,” Dickson said.
Medical staff from both teams rushed the field and worked on Walker for more than 20 minutes before an ambulance took him from the stadium. Several coaches were in tears as a prayer was led inside the Tulsa stadium.
A Tulane website for Walker has been flooded with messages of support. Walker’s parents, Booker and Inez, released a statement saying, “We have been overwhelmed by the amount of concerned well wishes we have received from all over the world. Although we cannot respond individually to all, we thank everyone for the love and support shown to Devon and our family. The medical care that our son has received so far has been outstanding.”