Less than four months after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury ending his 25-year career, former Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo Sunday. Even more incredible, got out of his wheelchair to greet his teammates in the lockeroom, even though his doctors initially wondered if he would ever walk on his own again.
ABC News' Dan Harris spoke with Dr. Teodoro Castillo of Memorial Hermann TIRR hospital at the University of Texas, who was Everett's personal physician during the months of treatment and rehabilitation in Houston.
DAN HARRIS: When Kevin first came to you, did you think he was going to walk again?
CASTILLO: Well, that is the first question a lot of people ask. When I first met him, I knew he had the movement in the legs, and he showed me he had good recovery just from the time he had the surgery to the time he got to our facility, so I knew he was going to walk again. But the type of walking, the quality of walking, that remained to be seen.
HARRIS: Are you surprised at how well he's doing?
CASTILLO: Yes, I'm surprised. Just because of experience from the past … Kevin has made significant gains. When he first got to us he … was still in bed most of the time. He depended on others for feeding, dressing, and those were his major limitations. After a week, he was able to sit up six to eight hours [a day] and about a week and a half [later] he started to stand with assistance from our therapists, and by the second week, he was able to make a few steps using a walker, and by the third week, to the time of discharge, he was walking on his own without using the walker. So that's the way he progressed. Currently, he is in the outpatient program and he's really doing well.
HARRIS: How far could this recovery go? Can he run some day?
CASTILLO: No. That's always going to be a difficult question. Right now, if you ask me at this point will he play football again? No, he is not there. In rehab, we have to reassess, focus on the goals, reassess every three months, six months. Cause nobody knows, nobody can predict. All we can go by is how much recovery he is showing so we always hope for the best. But I think he's going to be able to answer that question when we reach that point.
HARRIS: To what extent is recovery dictated by how determined the individual is?
CASTILLO: It's sad that we focus on the physical aspect and not the psychological aspect when someone gets injured. I believe that determination, willingness to get back and focus is really important. Even if you get good recovery, good muscle strength … if you don't have the willingness and the determination to focus you really won't progress.
HARRIS: How's his determination?
CASTILLO: Kevin is really doing well . When I talked to his mom -- he's always followed a rigorous training schedule and with that attitude, with his determination, family support, which he really has, and the team of clinicians he has to guide him and optimize his recovery, I think he will be successful.
HARRIS: So, one of the reasons he's done so well is because he's determined?