Kevin Everett, Former UM and NFL Athlete, Walks Tall

Everett Walks Tall and Announces Launch of the Kevin Everett Foundation

April 2008 — For a man many believed would never walk again, former Hurricane and NFL player Kevin Everett stood tall on the Miller School’s campus Friday during a visit to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. He was there to announce the launch of the Kevin Everett Foundation and thank The Miami Project team whose cutting-edge research ultimately played a role in his recovery from a spinal cord injury suffered during an NFL game last season.

Everett, whose recovery was called miraculous, was given a hypothermic treatment, the introduction of a cold saline solution into the system. In groundbreaking research at The Miami Project, a Miller School Center of Excellence and the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center, physicians and scientists have demonstrated the experimental treatment significantly decreases the damage to the spinal cord.

It’s amazing all the research they have been doing here,” said Everett who was a Buffalo Bills tight end before his injury. “It saved my life. I am up and moving and walking around. I am so thankful and appreciative of it all.”

At the news conference in the lobby of The Miami Project, Everett was flanked by Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School; Marc A. Buoniconti, president of The Miami Project; Barth A. Green, M.D., co-founder of The Miami Project and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery; and W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., The Miami Project’s scientific director.

Buoniconti, Green and Dietrich said they were thrilled that Everett benefited from research at UM and that his foundation would partner with The Miami Project. Andrew Cappuccino, the Buffalo Bills doctor who treated Everett after his spinal cord injury, learned about the hypothermia treatment at a seminar Dietrich conducted in Palm Beach in 2006.

“Whoever thought that a Hurricane player, a Hurricane scientist and a Hurricane doctor as part of The Miami Project team at UM, all coming together,” Green said. “What is the chance that the one team doctor who attended the lecture by Dr. Dietrich was on the field with this guy when he went down like a bag of potatoes, and the prognosis was that he wouldn’t walk again. Dr. Cappuccino was very bold to treat him like his own son and take a chance and use this experimental therapy.”

Dietrich mentioned that after hearing the lecture on hypothermia, Cappuccino said he would possibly use hypothermia the next time he encountered a patient with a severe cervical injury that might benefit from the treatment.

“Dr. Cappuccino made a major step of translating what we’re doing in some of the experimental studies, and just starting in people, to actually treat this football player,” Dietrich said. “It was really fantastic vision on his part to have everything in place, including the cold saline in the emergency vehicle, and to start the cooling very early which is critical in terms of acute care.”

Everett’s story, Dietrich added, is good testimony for the cutting-edge science being conducted at The Miami Project. “We can actually, through the Mission of The Miami Project and the University of Miami, change the way we treat people with acute and chronic injuries.  The scientists and clinicians who work in this building are trying to do this everyday” Dietrich said.

The Miami Project is now getting calls from physicians and scientists from as far away as Europe and Australia to inquire about joining in a hypothermia clinical trial. Dietrich says a large clinical trial population is needed and positive results could mark a significant advancement in the treatment of not only spinal cord injuries, but patients with traumatic brain injury, too. Dietrich, who joined Cappuccino in a presentation to the NFL, said some team doctors would now have cold saline on hand and make decisions about if and when they might use it to treat an injury.

It was last September, the first weekend of the NFL season at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, when Everett sustained his life-threatening spinal cord injury. He was attempting to tackle the Denver Bronco’s Domenik Hixon during the second-half kickoff when they collided violently and Everett fell to the field.

Buoniconti welcomed the news and said Everett’s recovery shows “how far the research has come.”

“It’s one step at a time but I think over the last 22 years you have been able to see how the research has culminated in something great,” Buoniconti said. “The next step is to get us all out of wheel chairs and I think we’re both dedicating our lives to doing that.”