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It's been nearly two months since Southern University football player Devon Gales was nearly paralyzed from an injury during a game against Georgia. Now, he's speaking exclusively to WAFB about the incident, his recovery and his future.
With a kiss from his grandmother, Devon Gales rolls into his first therapy session of the day at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. It's the first time we're getting a look at the Southern University football player since an in-game injury nearly paralyzed him seven weeks ago.
"I feel really blessed," Devon said with a smile. "I know all good is going to come from this and he's going to let me walk again."
His days at the Shepherd Center are early and full. Today, he's starting with occupational and physical therapy. Followed by strengthening and recreational sessions, he takes every day in stride.
"It's going great," Devon said. "I'm in my prayers every night and I read my bible every morning. I take it day by day. It's challenging, but it's nothing I haven't been through before."
It was September 26, 2015 during the Jaguars' game versus the Georgia Bulldogs that Devon was hurt. After emergency surgery to repair his spinal cord he was moved to the Shepherd Center which specializes in brain and spinal injury recovery and rehabilitation. Dr. Brock Bowman is the lead physician working with Devon.
"He's progressing about like we'd expect," said Dr. Bowman. "He's probably a little ahead of course, just because he's a healthy athlete with a good attitude, and we haven't run into many complications so far."
Through his therapy, Devon is re-learning a number of basic functions and re-strengthening muscles that were affected by the injury.
"With the extent of the injury he had, he's progressing well," Dr. Bowman said. "He has clearly not regressed, he's actually improved. So as the swelling goes down in his spinal cord, we hope to see more of that," said Dr. Bowman.
Devon says he believes God has allowed him to now become a voice for others, a living testimony that a little hard work and a lot of faith can go a very long way.
"It's never too late to fight for what you want," Devon said. "Even though you're going through the ups and downs, there's always a positive out of it. I just try to convince other people to fight for what you want. If somebody is down I try to find a way to pick them up. I tell them it's going to be alright, it's okay," he said.
While he's become an inspiration to others and a source of strength even for some of his colleagues at the Shepherd Center, he is learning more and more about himself.
"I knew that I was- I knew I was strong, but going through this situation, I feel like I was stronger and I feel like I can push through anything."
As he pushes, Devon recognizes the thousands of people near and far who are pushing with him.
"All these people who are praying for me, coming up to me it gives me a motivation to grind more and to get on my feet and walk," Devon said. From Georgia, Southern, all across the world. I would like to thank everyone. Thank you so much, this means so much to me and my family," he said.
"They could have left us the day of the accident, the day that the injury happened, they could have left us there in Athens at the hospital and may have called a few times but that's not the case," said Devon's mom, Tisch. They've been here every step of the way, which is very dear to my heart. It's just something, as a mother, that you would want for your child, and they've proven, you know, to be the supportive community," she said.
It's unclear when exactly Devon will move out of the Shepherd Center and into his next phase of rehabilitation, but the path to recovery is long. But it's lined with people cheering him along and he says he's ready for whatever play is called next.
"See what the Lord has for me next. I'm ready for anything he's putting in front of me," Devon said. "I know with his help he'll get me through it."
A fund set up by the Southern University System is assisting the family financially with travel and other expenses accrued while Devon is being treated in Georgia.
Donations can be made online at the Devon Gales Fund website or mailed to the following address:
Southern University System Foundation
c/o Devon Gales Fund
PO Box 9562
Baton Rouge, LA 70813