A Newton High School student who was injured during a wrestling match last year is about to begin his senior year, and the community is continuing to rally around him and his family as he continues his recovery.
Tyler Head, 16, suffered a serious neck and spinal cord injury during a match on Dec. 29 at the Rockdale Duals, placing him in the Trauma Center at the Atlanta Medical Center with broken vertebrae.
After emergency surgery at the medical center, Tyler was transported to the Shepherd Spinal Center for therapy and rehabilitation. There, his intense rehabilitation continues.
Since his injury, Newton High, the community and his family have rallied around him with hopes and prayers. A "Fight Like Tyler" website and a Facebook page, "Tyler Head Updates," were developed to show support.
Tyler and his mom, Deborah Head, said though the process of recovery is slow, he is recovering.
"He is definitely making progress. It’s slow, which is to be expected as they told us, but he is making progress every day," Head said. "He’s getting stronger."
"It’s slowly but steadily getting better," Tyler said.
Mrs. Head said she makes trips daily with Tyler, back and forth to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, a little more than 35 miles away, as he goes through therapy. While there, she said, Tyler manually walks on a treadmill with the help of staff and he does other exercises to get his muscles active.
"He does have some movement in his right leg; he can kick and he can wiggle his right foot and wiggle his right toes," his mother said. "They told us that they feel the same muscles in the left leg, but [the muscles] are just so weak, he can’t use them hardly… We are just praying that (therapy) will activate that left leg and get it stronger so it’ll be able to move."
Mindful of those frequent trips back and forth to the Spinal Center, Ann Wildmon at the Southern Heartland Gallery decided to hold a painting class fundraiser for the Heads. All proceeds will be used to purchase a hefty gas card for the family.
The fundraiser, Paint Along to benefit Tyler Head, is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Aug. 3. The cost is $35 for all supplies, and a total
of 28 spots are available for painting. To reserve a slot, email Wildmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mrs. Head said the family is grateful for the fundraiser and other support from the community.
"It’s a blessing, because you know now that we are down to just my husband’s income, things are tight, and gas is expensive," she said. "We have seen God working in so many ways. Our church family (Crossroads United Methodist Church in Conyers) and the community have really been very supportive."
Mrs. Head said that in addition to his daily therapy, Tyler has been catching up on his schoolwork this summer.
He will begin his senior year, attending Newton High and the Newton College and Career Academy.
Tyler will do homebound work instead of attending his afternoon classes as he continues to attend therapy, she said.
"We’re hoping that getting back with his friends and everything that they can, you know … it’ll be good for them, it’ll be good for him," she said. "The fact that he’s going to be able to go back, and that he didn’t miss anything, that he can stay with his class, you know that’s really good because we were concerned about that."
Tyler said he is looking forward to going back to school at the new Newton High and said he can’t wait to be with his friends.
"It’ll feel good to get some normalcy back in my life, you know. Things have been kind of crazy these past seven months, and I think going to school and getting to see all my friends will be really good and really relaxing," he said.
Mrs. Head said that since Tyler’s injury, the family has learned to appreciate life in a new way, not taking things for granted.
"I’m just thankful that he is here, because he could have died. There are some people who don’t make it. So you know, it just makes you have a new appreciation for your life and what’s important in your life. Stuff doesn’t mean anything. Your family, that’s what’s important," she said.
"I just want to tell everybody thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything that everybody has done and ask that they continue to pray for Tyler, because he is getting better."