NEW ORLEANS -- People at Destrehan High and Tulane University are waiting for word on the health of one of their own.
Football player Devon Walker broke his neck in Saturday's game when it was compressed in a tackle.
It was the last play of the first half. Tulane against Tulsa. Two players smashed their helmets together. Tulane safety senior Devon Walker never got up.
'He said that his neck hurt, and we have him stabilized and a lot of it is after we kind of do an initial assessment and we're trying to get him on the spine board and into the ambulance. At that point we're just kind of, 'You relax. You let us do what we need to do,'' said Dr. Greg Stewart, Tulane's director of Sports Medicine.
Dr. Stewart was with Devon on the field, in the ambulance and in the E.R. at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
'And we told him, when we get to the emergency room, it's going to get crazy. There's going to be a big team there waiting to take care of you. There's going to be a lot of noise, a lot of talking. Everything else going on. Don't worry about it. We're going to tell you what's happening, what's taking place, and we're going to talk you through it all,' Dr. Stewart recalls telling his injured player.
'The trauma team's waiting for us. When we get there, we get him in and do all the things, initial assessment and everything that needs to be done and then we actually go and they actually sedated him so that we could finish doing everything else that needed to be done and finish doing all the tests. 'And it was determined that they needed to do surgery. And they did surgery yesterday afternoon and they stabilized his spine. The ligaments had been torn. There was some fracture in there so they went in and fixed everything that they needed to fix. And then he came out of surgery yesterday evening about 6 p.m.,' explained Dr. Stewart.
The spinal cord is not severed, but with all the swelling, it's hard to tell if there will be paralysis or recovery.
The Tulane community is concerned about a respected teammate.
'We see Devon as one of our family members. So we came together. We took some time to pray for Devon and his family. He's one of our own,' said former Tulane swimmer Hagar Elgendy, who is now a graduate student.
'He's just a hard working young man and he just loved football,' said Stephanie Sharpe, Tulane assistant strength and conditioning football coach.
'He came to practice everyday ready to work. He never really expected anything. He was a walk-on. Came earned his self a scholarship,' said Albert Williams, a Tulane graduate and former football teammate from Texas.
The orthopedic surgeons said it's very important for football players to work out their necks and build up their neck muscles to protect their spines.
There are machines where you sit and push against resistance, moving your neck against the weights back and forth or side to side. Or you can do it like the Tulane football players, manually with a trainer pushing against your head for resistance.
Now we wait. His next few days recovering in the ICU in Tulsa could determine his lifelong fate.
Doctors at Tulane say there was a lot of misinformation about Devon's injury. He never had a collapsed lung, nor did he need his airway opened in his neck on the field.
His heart is fine. Doctors did chest compressions on the field as a precaution.
Donate to the University of Tulsa Devon Walker Fund.
You can read a message from Tulane University President Scott Cowen, DBA, here.