BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Patricia Dugas reached out, touched
Kevin Everett's arm and asked her son if he could feel her hand. Everett
-- lying in a hospital bed, barely awake and hooked to life support
systems -- nodded yes.
"I can't even explain it to you; he's like a miracle," Dugas
said Wednesday, her voice breaking in a telephone interview with
The Associated Press.
Doctors aren't calling it a miracle yet, but they expressed
"cautious optimism" now that the Buffalo Bills reserve tight end
is showing significant signs of improvement.
Everett can wiggle his toes, bend his hip, move his ankles,
elevate and kick his leg, as well as extend his elbows and slightly
flex his biceps, said Dr. Kevin Gibbons, the supervisor of
neurosurgery at Buffalo's Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital.
But Everett, who's breathing on his own after being taken off a
respirator Wednesday, cannot move his hands after sustaining a
life-threatening spinal cord injury.
"There are some answers now. And many more questions remain,"
Gibbons said in an update to reporters. "The patient's made
significant improvement. But no one should think the functions in
his legs is close to normal. Not even close. ... If you ask me,
'Would he walk again?' I would tell you that I wouldn't bet against
it. But he has a long way to go."
Bills orthopedic surgeon Andrew Cappuccino improved his
prognosis, too, saying he's "cautiously slightly more
optimistic." That's a big improvement from Monday when Cappuccino
said Everett's chances for a full neurologic recovery were "bleak,
Dugas left her home in Port Arthur, Texas, on Monday not knowing
whether her son would ever walk again. Everything changed Tuesday,
when she watched her son move his limbs and feel her touch when he
was partially awakened from a sedated state.
She spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday, knowing doctors
had amended their initial grim prognosis.
"That's right. They're surprised themselves," Dugas said.
"They don't know Kevin Everett. Oh, man, I always told him when he
was a little boy, 'You show them better than you can tell them.'
He's going to be fine. I really believe it."
Emotionally drained yet genuinely upbeat, Dugas let out a big
laugh in discussing the last four difficult days.
"Happy," said Dugas, who has spent the past three days at her
son's bedside. "I'm extremely happy. I'm grateful."
Everett sustained the injury Sunday after ducking his head while
tackling the Denver Broncos' Domenik Hixon during the second-half
kickoff of the Bills' season opener. He dropped face-first to the
ground after his helmet hit Hixon high on the left shoulder and
side of the helmet.
Unable to get the Bills game on TV at home, Everett's mother
called several sports bars and learned one just around the corner
was showing the game.
Dugas walked in just as the second half began, just in time to
see her son fall to the ground.
"That's the first thing I saw. I was so upset. I was
distraught, and I started panicking, 'What can I do? And I've got
to get to him because he's not getting up,'" she said. "I can't
explain to you how I felt, because there's no words for it. It was
the worst thing I had ever saw."
"'Get up,"' Dugas recalled saying. "I mean, I can't explain
it. It was just horrible."
With help from some bar patrons, Dugas composed herself, went
home and immediately began making plans to travel to Buffalo.
Then came the next shock.
Cappuccino called from the hospital to inform Dugas of her son's
condition. A few minutes later, Everett was on the phone.
"He put him on the phone and [Everett] said, 'Momma, don't
worry. I love you. I love my sisters. I know I'll be all right,'"
Dugas said. "He asked if I was coming, and I said, 'Momma is
coming. You don't even worry about that.'"
Despite knowing Everett's condition, Dugas was comforted by
hearing his voice.
"I was so proud of him, laying in the condition that he was in
and thinking about me, his family" she said.
His Bills family isn't just thinking about him -- numerous
players also visited Everett on their day off Tuesday.
"I started cracking little jokes to keep him upbeat," tight
end Robert Royal said. "He was actually laughing a little bit when
we were talking about football stuff. ... He was excited, and we
told him we would stick by him no matter what."
Coach Dick Jauron, who also visited Everett, acknowledged it
would be difficult for his team to prepare to play at Pittsburgh on
"There's no way to pretend that Kevin's situation does not
occupy our thoughts and our conversations a lot of the time. It
certainly does," Jauron said. "But I think our guys are
professional enough, and they really care enough about what they
Dugas went out of her way to thank the Bills, the hospital
medical staff and fans for their work and support. Part of her time
with Everett is spent reading him the many cards and letters that
already have arrived at the hospital.
"We're going to take it slow getting him up on his feet, but we
hope to see him walk out of here," she said. "He has a strong
will and determination. I tell you, he's not going to settle for
this. You're all going to see a miracle."