On September 26, 2015, I saw Devon fall to the ground on the football field and knew that the call would be coming shortly, knew that in an instant, a young man’s life had been forever changed. I had no idea how much my life would change.
Neurosurgery is a field full of terrible injuries, life-altering disease. As doctors in this field, we are responsible for caring for many patients in the most horrible of circumstances. We operate, repairing what physical injuries we can, depending on the body to heal as it can. We teach, we guide. We bear witness to moments of fear, despair, pain. We also, however, see miraculous moments of triumph and joy.
Devon Gales brought a community together after his spinal cord injury. He and his family displayed a sense of grace and determination from the moment he hit the doors of ARMC emergency room. Not once did I hear him say “I can’t” or “I won’t.” He simply smiled and worked, occasionally grimaced and moved on. People from all walks of life were inspired by his smile, by his family’s quiet presence, and they rallied around Devon and his family so far from home. The healthcare providers who took care of him, the UGA fans who cheered him on, the many young athletes who reached out to shake his hand and knelt to hug him seemed to come from everywhere. Community businesses shared resources to lift his family up and allow him to continue to move forward with his rehabilitation. I have never been so proud and so honored to be a part of our Athens community as during this time.
His athletic work ethic, his steadfast spirit have brought a stepwise healing to his body. He is a miracle of youth, medical technology and community in progress.
I must say that in a time when I find myself ashamed for my boys to watch the news, to see how even our leaders treat one another with blatant disregard and disrespect, I am proud for them to watch stories like Devon’s. We have talked about family and community, about healing and miracles, about hope. Devon’s family has made mine better. Their son has made my sons’ universe bigger and brighter.
Our lives will never be the same having had the Gales in our world!