“In the blink of an eye, your whole life changes.” Boca High football player struggles to walk again after ‘freak’ injury

On Nov. 30, Grant Genovese goes up for the ball in Plantation’s youth varsity football game against host American Heritage.

After the 17-year-old Boca Raton High goalkeeper landed awkwardly, everything was a blur. He was carefully placed on a wooden board and transported directly from the Plantation campus to Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale as a Level 1 trauma patient.

“I remember I was going to catch the ball and make a save and then I rolled over another player’s back and it hit the ground head-shoulder first,” he said. “I remember the coaching staff coming to check on me and the next thing I remember was Paramedics took me off the field on a stretcher.”

At first, he didn’t feel anything on the left side of his body. In addition to the concussion, Genovese also suffered from Brown-Séquard syndrome, a rare spinal disorder caused by damage to one side of the spinal cord in which the cord is damaged but not completely severed, said Dr. Barth Green, World-Miami Renowned neurosurgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Grant Genovese is all smiles after his first meal at Broward Health after being released from the ICU.

The syndrome is usually caused by a spinal injury in the neck or back area. In many cases, affected individuals receive some type of stab wound in the neck or back, which can damage the spine and cause symptoms. This left Genovese’s left arm numb and his left leg paralyzed.

He went up to grab the ball, saved it, the opponent came in and tried to head it in, but Genovese had the ball. The 6-foot Genovese collapsed onto his opponent with his legs pulled from under him.

His mother, Donna Genovese, said her son was “one step away from being a complete quadriplegic.”

“In the blink of an eye,” she said, “your whole life changes.

“His entire left side was completely paralyzed,” she said. “It stretched from his left shoulder to his left foot. He was in ICU for a few days and he was able to use his fingers. Then it went and came back.

“After that, they did things so he could maintain his strength and build up his strength,” she said. “Now the left arm, hand and shoulder have the same strength as the right. From the hip down, he has nothing.”

After nearly three weeks in the hospital, Grant was able to go home but required six hours of treatment a day. He also traveled to Boca Clinic for inpatient rehabilitation.

To date, 307 donors have donated $22,977 of the $50,000 goal to fund me to help offset the escalating costs of physical and occupational therapy and medical equipment to help him walk again. Three young neighbors also raised $1,400 selling lemonade and ice cream cones.

Neighbors Delaney Goldring, Kendall Page and Spencer Goldring raised $1,400 to help Grant Genovese.donna genoa

“The support from the community has been amazing,” said Grant, who was recognized ahead of the team’s victory over Spanish River before the holiday. “Many people from schools, friends and family, our church and many others reached out with prayers and support.”

What drove him to get back on his feet?

“I just want to get back to normal and do what I was doing before I got hurt,” he said. “I’ve been in the sport since I was 4 or 5 years old and love it. I really miss my teammates who have always supported me. I just want to get back out there and help my team.”

He spent some time in Broward Health’s ICU before being moved to a room. When he stabilized, they sent him to the Jackson Memorial in Miami.

“He had serious neurological issues and they had to put him through serious physical and occupational therapy,” Donna said. “There’s a very small window of action, and if you don’t get the muscles and nerves the treatment they need, it’s over.

“They sent him to the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center at the Jackson Memorial, where they deal with all types of injuries,” she said. “If you’re paralyzed or have lost a limb. They have a beautiful state-of-the-art gym. After a week and a half, they put him in home physical therapy and outpatient therapy for five to six hours a week, five to six days a week.”

She said it was just a weird accident.

“You have insurance, you think you have the best insurance, but you suffer a catastrophic injury and they pay nothing,” Donna said. “Thank goodness we have insurance, but we’ve started getting emails and letters saying they don’t pay for certain things.”

It’s hard to face the adversity that an injury creates.

“Grant’s wish was to come home for Christmas, to come home for (Gavin’s) brother’s birthday, and his birthday was 29,” she said. “We told Grant that we will do what’s best for you and bring you home when the time is right for you. We are delighted to have him home. We are delighted to now bring the five of us under one roof.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “We just want him to get better.”

In terms of percentages, according to Donna, they said his arm was a zero and now it’s a 5 out of 5. His leg is still zero.

Grant Genovese is all smiles after his first meal at Broward Health after being released from the ICU.

“There’s nothing on the legs,” she said. “We hope and pray this leg will be a leg. Hip zero too. Hip back to 2 or 3. Hip allows him to walk.

Donna said her son was so determined that he had to put his college admissions on hold. She said many universities have already reached out.

“You have to get the muscles and nerves going,” she said. “The neurosurgeon said, look, he’s got his left arm back. Just because Grant is super healthy, and he’s super strong. He goes to the gym twice a day, and he’s crazy, super strong. If he wasn’t that strong, he’d still be In the hospital.

“He was one step away from being a complete quadriplegic,” she said. “His spinal cord was injured and he was one step away. The neurosurgeon said the way he landed; when he landed, his neck was still fully extended. It didn’t go back. He wasn’t in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, so I Appreciated. He has to use it to get help, but he won’t stay in it forever.”

The injury occurred during the FIFA World Cup and Genoa did not miss a game.

“OMG, he wore it the whole time he was in the hospital,” Donna said. “He watched it, but he was devastated. While he was watching the game, the doctors and surgeons told him he would never play contact sports again. Grant would tell the surgeons that he was not God.

“I really appreciate all the help the therapist has been providing,” Grant said. “I usually have about two to three hours of therapy a day with PT, and then I do my own exercises at home.

“I just want to stay positive,” he continued, “and I know that this hard work will eventually help me walk again.”

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