Too often in life it takes tragic events to put things in perspective for us all. Tuesday night as the nation watched the election results pour in from across the country and factions of political supporters fought amongst themselves on who was going to win the presidential election and why their candidate was the only one for the job, a young man with a ton of talent was in a fight of his own.
Houston Cougar senior cornerback D.J. Hayden experienced what we all hear in our lives from time to time, a freak injury. The injury was something that could not have been prevented but something that will change his life forever. On a routine play in practice Hayden collided with a teammate and the result was an injury that immediately caused a massive internal bleed that nearly took his life.
On Thursday the Cougars released information from their Head Team Physician Walter Lowe, M.D. about the dynamics of the injury Hayden suffered.
"This injury has never been seen or reported in association with a football injury and is more associated with high speed motor vehicle injuries," said Lowe via the release. "The type of injury D.J. had is 95 percent fatal in the field and we are all very thankful for the coordinate response from the University of Houston trainers, EMS paramedics, the trauma team at Memorial Hermann and operating surgeon Dr. John Holcomb."
The injury outlined in the release as a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart as one that is very serious and life threatening. Lowe commended the coordinated response from the University of Houston Athletics Training Staff, EMS paramedics and the trauma staff at Memorial Hermann Hospital where Hayden was rushed.
There has been an outpouring of support from the Houston Cougar community and beyond as well wishers have taken to Facebook as well as Twitter, using the hashtag #prayforDJ to send well wishes and encouragement.
Head coach Tony Levine was hesitant to comment much on Hayden's status Wednesday night at his publicly broadcasted weekly radio show citing privacy laws. Instead he did confirm that Hayden would not return for the Cougars final three games and asked that fans continue to keep Hayden and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
Beyond this season there is still uncertainty on if the talented cornerback destined to get his shot to play on Sundays will be able to resume his career.
In the release on Thursday, some further comments from Levine were included.
"D.J. is a tremendous young man and has been a great asset to our program, both on and off the field. I ask that everyone continue to keep D.J. and his family in their thoughts and prayers. We are very fortunate to have some of the nation's top physicians and medical facilities just minutes away from our campus and I would like to extend our appreciation for their efforts on Tuesday evening. We thank you for respecting the privacy of D.J. and his family at this time. We look forward to supporting D.J. on his road to recovery."
The school included in the release that Hayden was currently alert and in stable yet critical condition in Memorial Hermann ICU unit.
Hayden was selected as the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year in 2011 as well as being named to the second team All-Conference team following his junior year with the Cougars in which he had two interceptions and a team leading 11 pass breakups.
So far this season he had four interceptions including two returned for touchdowns in back-to-back games, one being a 97 yard interception return against UTEP, his second interception of the game, that helped earn him Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
CougarsDen spoke with Hayden shortly after the Conference honor and learned of Hayden's recent change in approach to the game that had helped his focus and on-field performance.
this story from October 30. "I've been taking a different approach mentally to the game so I think that has been helping me out with my focus and I have been able to react to stuff better."
For now the Cougar team is reminded of the lesson we are all reminded of in the last few days, that the game of football is just that, a game. They get back to playing that game they all love so much on Saturday as the Cougars host the Tulsa Golden Hurricane for Homecoming. Tulsa leads the West Division of Conference USA and is looking to close in on a berth on the Conference Championship Game. Houston tries to fight to get bowl eligible still and will surely have the fallen teammate on their minds as they do so.
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