Oct. 30, 2000
Quotes from Monday Press Conference
with Head Coach Rick Neuheisel
Team Physician John O'Kane
and Dave Burton, Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, Wellness and Student Services
(Neuheisel's general remarks on Curtis Williams): "I think generally, before we talk about Arizona, the question on everyone's mind is the status and well-being of our safety, Curtis Williams. Curtis' status and situation has remained unchanged. He currently is in intensive care at Stanford Medical Center and he is receiving the best care available. As always, I am told in these types of traumatic injuries, uncertainty is the watchword. It is very difficult to press physicians into telling you one way or the other, because the fact is that these things can go in many different directions. Basically, it is a wait and see situation. We met with the team last night. Coach Bob Hauck and I stayed back in Palo Alto, following the victory, and we spent time with Curtis' brothers David and Paul. There is a third brother who is a coach for Fresno State, who obviously couldn't be there at that moment. I communicated with Curtis' father. We stayed over and saw Curtis to be alert Sunday morning. There was word that there had been movement in the shoulder, but that is the only movement that has been confirmed. Obviously it is a very difficult situation for all involved. I talked to Sue Paterno, Joe's wife, this morning because the Penn State team has dealt with a similar circumstance this season. I am going to have a chance to talk to Joe later this afternoon as to how they went about dealing with this situation, in terms of how they prepared for their next game and how they offered support to the family. We are being as proactive as humanly possible and certainly want to say thank you to all the people who have extended their best wishes and prayers in behalf of Curtis and his families. We, as a football team, are going to do the best that we can in order to press on and play with the same passion that Curtis Williams played with. Hopefully we will do just that. As I have said, I had a chance to speak with Curtis yesterday and I guess you can't be sure, but it seemed it was very evident that he understood what I was saying. When I mentioned that our team was going to press on for him, it was evident that that was what he wanted."
(O'Kane on whether or not Williams suffered a contusion): "The evidence that we have from the MRI is that there is some spinal cord injury, and that is reflected by having some blood in the area of the spinal cord. That is really all we know in terms of exactly what happened. In terms of a contusion or a compression, there is not evidence of a compression, blood implies that there was some sort of contusion."
(O'Kane on the likeliness of complete recovery): "In regards to that question, I can not speak specifically about Curtis because everyone is different. From this point forward there is certainly reason to be optimistic because some people do have recovery from early evidence of spinal cord injury. There are also situations where people do not have complete recovery or significant recovery and all we can do now is wait and hope for the best, and hopefully some time in the near future we will see some improvement. Medically, we can not answer as to how much he will recover right now. As a staff and as a team, we are just hoping and praying that Curtis has as complete a recovery as he can have."
(O'Kane on next actions of the doctors): "It really depends on how things progress day to day. I think that right now, the doctors are waiting because there is sub-further imaging that they are trying to do, to understand as best as possible, what happened. But beyond that, what they do will largely depends on what Curtis does, so it is kind of a waiting game."
(O'Kane on the doctor's tests):"What they are going to be watching is Curtis. But the information that we have so far is that the regular x-rays and a CAT scan did not show evidence of a bone injury. The next thing that they did was to get a MRI and this did not show any bone or ligamentous injury, but did show evidence of spinal cord injury. They did one additional MRI to look further at the bones and ligaments to see if they could understand how this injury took place, but that is all the information the doctors have right now."
(O'Kane on whether Williams is still on a respirator): "To my knowledge, and the last that I have heard, is that he is still on a respirator. At this point, they want to keep him sedated and comfortable and in order to do this they keep him at a level of consciousness, where they will continue to breathe for him with a respirator."
(O'Kane on the timeline of Williams): "It is really completely dependent on the Stanford medical staff, and there is no right answer. It just depends on how the rest of his picture progresses and we have every confidence that the best people are working with him."
(O'Kane on the changes in the medical profession over the last ten years): "Honestly, not as much has changed as we would have liked to, in that ten years ago, we did not have a way to make injured nerves regenerate and we still do not have a way to make injured nerves regenerate. What has improved significantly is the management of the intensive care unit to make sure that someone continues to breathe during this recovery period."
(O'Kane on whether or not Williams suffered a concussion): "I still don't think we have an answer to that question. We do have evidence that there was no immediate bleeding in the brain. But, you can have a concussion without evidence of early brain bleeding. So I don't think we know yet that a concussion is completely out of the picture."
(O'Kane on life-threatening aspects of injury): "I'm not sure that honestly we can say that Williams is completely out of the woods. He is in the intensive care unit with a very serious injury. People have done very well in that situation and that is what we are hoping for but I don't think it is safe to predict a worse-possible outcome, I think we have to be optimistic and hope for the best."
(O'Kane on what the doctors at Stanford are doing right now): "What they are doing right now is they are taking care of him in terms of fluid, nutrition, and vital function. They are continuing to get the best possible appreciation as to what happened. And at the same time, they are watching his neurologic status and hoping to see some recovery."
(O'Kane on the signs of recovery): "It is not really tests that they are looking as much as what he is doing. We are all very hopeful that he will show some movement and some feeling. That is the kind of recovery we are hoping to see. It could be tomorrow, it could be two weeks from now. People have heard stories of recoveries further than that. We are in an area that doesn't have clearly defined borders."
(O'Kane on Williams' coherence): "I think the sedation waxes and wanes a little bit. Coach Neuheisel was discussing how he was there during a time when Curtis was a little more lucid and he was not under as much sedation. Because of the ventilator, they need to keep him under some level of sedation to allow the ventilator to function. They will watch all the time during periods of when he is less sedated to see what he can start to do."
(O'Kane on athletes handling injuries): "We assume that better conditioned athletes are better prepared to handle injuries. But at the same token this injury is very, very rare. I think that this is a situation kind of like being struck by lightning, it is very rare, very uncommon, and very unfortunate to have happened to someone we care about. Occasionally in football, in college and in high school, every year there are similar incidents."
(O'Kane on the Stanford Medical Center): "I think he has the best care for the problem that he has. I think that care could be provided here and a couple of places in California. We are completely comfortable that Curtis has the best care, if we weren't, we wouldn't have him there. It is also convenient for his family to be close to him."
(Burton on communication between Stanford and Washington): "I speak with Curtis' emergency room nurse every day as well as being in constant communication with Curtis' brother David. So we are getting updates whenever they are available to us."
(Burton on the situation on the field): "To some degree it is every coach and trainer's nightmare. We do prepare for that situation and hope that it never comes. But Stanford has an incredible medical facility and we were confident that he would be in the best care possible."