Georgia baseball player Johnathan Taylor remains paralyzed, hopes to walk again (UPDATED)

Updated 2:55 p.m. . . .

The odds of Johnathan Taylor walking again are not great. But there remains hope and, if anybody can do it, Georgia’s dynamic center fielder can.

That was the word from doctors at the Shepherd Center on Thursday morning. A news conference was held there to provide a medical update on Taylor, a UGA junior from Acworth whose neck was broken in an outfield collision with a teammate during a game against Florida State on March 6.

Georgia baseball coach David Perno is accompanied by Dr. Kimberly Walpert of St. Mary's Hospital and Dr. Donald Peck Leslie of the Shepherd Center while providing a medical update on UGA junior outfielder Johnathan Taylor. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

Georgia baseball coach David Perno is accompanied by Dr. Kimberly Walpert of St. Mary's Hospital and Dr. Donald Peck Leslie of the Shepherd Center while providing a medical update on UGA junior outfielder Johnathan Taylor. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

After an initial surgery by Dr. Kimberly Walpert at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens to repair fractures of the C5 and C6 vertebrae in Taylor’s spine, he was transported to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center and remains a patient there.

“That’s a question we get on almost a daily basis, will he walk again?,” said Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, medical director at the Shepherd Center and one of Taylor’s attending physicians. “That’s not known at this time. Walking is a big goal for everybody who comes here. But at this time we can’t say that.”

Taylor is currently categorized as a tetraplegic, meaning all of his extremities have been affected by the injury. Taylor’s spinal cord was bruised but not severed, so there is a chance he can continue to recover. There remains hope that he might walk again one day.

“There is definitely optimism,”  coach David Perno said. “If anybody deserves a miracle it’s Johnathan Taylor.”

After the news conference Leslie was asked about the general recovery rate of patients with such an injury. “A majority of people with this injury don’t walk, unfortunately,” he said.

But he said Taylor has made tremendous strides in the five weeks since he has been at Shepherd. He has regained movement in his arms and shoulders and is able to operate a manual wheelchair himself.

Taylor

Taylor

“He was having a great deal of respiratory trouble when he first got here, but complications now are few,” Leslie said. “He’s strengthening. He gets up and out of bed independently every day. He’s gaining strength every day.  I think you’ll see in the future that his prognosis is very good.”

Taylor arises at 6 o’clock each morning in his room in the fourth floor at Shepherd and immediately heads to the gym for rehab.

“He’s a trained athlete; he wants to get to the gym,” Leslie said.

Taylor is expected to remain at Shepherd several more weeks. Eventually he’ll be discharged and continue his rehabilitation as an outpatient. Not surprisingly, expenses have been great.

Catastrophic injury policies provided by Georgia and the NCAA will cover Taylor’s medical needs for the next 30 years, according to Athletic Director Greg McGarity. Taylor will receive a lump-sum payment at the end of this year and receive monthly payments after that.

Meanwhile, the “Johnathan Taylor Fund” has been established by First American Bank of Athens to cover additional. Information for contributing to that fund can be accessed at georgiadogs.com. Donations will also be solicited at Georgia’s G-Day spring football game Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

“I don’t want to go into details but there are expenses that can run a lifetime that aren’t covered by insurance,” said McGarity, addressing the need to solicit additional funds. “This fund was established to defray those additional expenses. For instance, the insurance may provide for a special van, but it may not provide fuel and insurance for that can.  Believe me when I say we stand behind our student-athletes, especially those in need.”

Taylor is the second Georgia baseball player in two years to suffer a serious spinal injury. Second baseman Chance Veazey severed his spinal cord in a motor scooter accident in October of 2009 and remains in wheelchair. Veazey’s medical expenses were not covered by the catastrophic injury policy because his was a, off-campus motor vehicle accident. However, a similar fund raised more than $500,000 for Veazey’s care, according to baseball team trainer Mike Dillon.

Taylor is the second Georgia baseball player in two years to suffer a serious spinal injury. Second baseman Chance Veazey severed his spinal cord in a motor scooter accident in October of 2009 and remains in wheelchair.

Perno said that experience and Veazey’s interaction with Taylor have helped them through the ordeal. Baseball team trainer Mike Dillon visits Taylor at least five days a week. Taylor’s mother Tandra is currently living in the residence hall at Shepherd.

Taylor and left fielder Zach Cone collided while diving for a sinking line drive in the third inning of a March 6 game against Florida State. Cone, who actually caught the ball on the play, suffered a concussion and a cut on his head and also left the game.

Taylor, a graduate of North Cobb High School, was a lead-off batter and a career .312 hitter for the Bulldogs. He had started 10 of 11 games in either center or left field  and was hitting .182 this season at the time of the collision.

Georgia now wears a JT2 patch on its uniform and batting helmets. The Bulldogs (18-16) have gone 15-8 against the nation’s No. 1-rated schedule since Taylor’s injury.

112 comments Add your comment

1st

April 14th, 2011
12:14 pm

My prayers are with the young man. Best of luck in his recovery.

DawginLex

April 14th, 2011
12:15 pm

Hopefully, enough money can be raised to help the family with medical costs.

Shepherd is a great place. Great doctors. Great staff. He is getting the best treatment.

We are all pulling for you Johnathan!!!!!!!!

Prove them wrong.

Walk out of there one day.

Beast from the East

April 14th, 2011
12:19 pm

Best wishes for a full recovery. Stay strong, young man!

D A DoubleU G

April 14th, 2011
12:20 pm

God speed young man.

Thoughts and prayers are undoubtedly with out.

JDawg1785

April 14th, 2011
12:25 pm

Keep those prayers coming for this amazing young man. God bless you, JT!

1eyedJack

April 14th, 2011
12:26 pm

Banned again? What’d I say this time?

1eyedJack

April 14th, 2011
12:27 pm

1eyedJack

April 14th, 2011
12:28 pm

God’s plan doesn’t always match our own.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 14th, 2011
12:28 pm

From a GT fan, get well soon young man. You can do it!!!

Outside Observer

April 14th, 2011
12:28 pm

Thoughts and prayers for the young man.

Just a quick question though, shouldn’t UGA be helping with the medical costs since he was injured while competing? I would figure they would contribute a bit, and with all of the excess funds coming in to the Athletic Association, it wouldn’t hurt the budget too much.

DawgieFan

April 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

Shouldn’t UGA AA insurance be footing the entire bill for this?

RSmith

April 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

Isiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Be Strong young man for there is nothing to hard for God.

deb

April 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

Hoping for a speedy recovery son. You’re young and sending prayers to you and your family that you will beat this. God Bless!

Sharlenor

April 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

My prayer is that you will find comfort in knowing that God will see you thru.

give it up UGA

April 14th, 2011
12:34 pm

UGA has the 5th most profitable football program in the NCAA. $80M in profits I think I read. good lord – $500k is a drop in the bucket for this athletics program. Do the right thing and help this young man get back on his feet.

Sherrie

April 14th, 2011
12:36 pm

Enter your comments here
Johnathan, Praying for you and your family. With all of the prayers coming your way I am sure God will be watching over you.

Brock

April 14th, 2011
12:36 pm

good luck to this kid. hope he walks again.

observor

April 14th, 2011
12:38 pm

Chip-
Previous bloggers have brought up a good point. Why isn’t UGA covering all the medical expenses for him? Seems like not only the right thing to do, but also their legal obligation given that he was a scholarship athlete that was injured as a direct result in the participation of a major varsity sport.

Bamajacket

April 14th, 2011
12:41 pm

Best wishes and prayers to this young man. The whole state is pulling for you.

dawgfacedboy

April 14th, 2011
12:46 pm

My families thoughts and prayers are with yours JT. Have faith and the good Lord will deliver.

RAMBLINWRECK

April 14th, 2011
12:47 pm

As a GT fan i just wanted to say that i really hope this man can have a full recovery!! My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family! God bless

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
12:48 pm

Stay strong JT!!!!!! Why isn’t The Athletic Association insurance covering ALL costs? Can someone please find out?

j. stevens

April 14th, 2011
12:50 pm

I am a graduate of UGA and I WANT TO KNOW if they are PAYING for Johnathan’s treatment? I am about to call the AD myself. If they aren’t, I will NEVER contribute another penny!

schmeckdawg

April 14th, 2011
1:01 pm

nerds! nerds! nerds! & j. stevens

You two are great people. I called the UGAAA shortly after I found out how traumatic of an injury that Jonathan had suffered and saw where they had set up the fund to help cover his medical costs. Unfortunately, I asked the secretary who I could speak with regarding this exact matter. I was asked to leave my name and phone number and was told that someone would call me back. After one more call and no response, I just sent in a donation.

I hope you two have better luck!!!!!!

Ann

April 14th, 2011
1:02 pm

My husband substained the same injury (C5 & C6) from a car accident in 2006. He stayed at Shepard Center about 3 months and when we discharged he was walking. I pray this young man recover from his injuries.

CT

April 14th, 2011
1:11 pm

Gator Baseball fans are praying for your full recovery!

SCBee

April 14th, 2011
1:12 pm

from still another GT fan; best wishes for a speedy recovery – hope you are back on the field in short order!

Patman

April 14th, 2011
1:13 pm

May this young man have a full recovery and may god be with him.

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:15 pm

Chip:

You need to clear this up for us. What exactly is the fund for? I am going to be outraged if this is for his medical expenses and future medical expenses. The AA insurance should cover ALL expenses. I just made a call to ask these questions and got shuffled all around the office. Call 706-542-9036 for yourself and let them know how you feel. We need some answers. Go Dawgs, but most importantly, Go JT!

Suze

April 14th, 2011
1:15 pm

I’m so impressed with the drive that Johnathan is showing in his rehabilitation – he sounds like a wonderful young man. I’m hoping for a bright future for him in many ways.

Like others, I’m questioning why money is being solicited for his care. UGA (and/or the athletic insurer) should be covering every dime, and then some, including support for his mom who is living at the Shepard Center while he is there. Total no-brainer. Step up, all you Dawg fans, and get your beloved school to take care of Johnathan.

Buckeye

April 14th, 2011
1:18 pm

Keep the faith, Kid. You’ve got a lot of people pulling and praying for you.

My thoughts are also with Zach Cone. I trust he too is getting the help he needs.

If I may respectively say, Johnathan, you are one fine Dawg.

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:19 pm

I’m gonna call the bank.

chilidawg

April 14th, 2011
1:21 pm

Good luck, Johnathan.

GT Fan

April 14th, 2011
1:26 pm

Praying for you JT, hope you get better.

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:27 pm

First American Bank says this money will fund his long term medical expenses. Not all of his UGA insurance covers these expenses and this will help cover the costs. UGA INSURANCE IS NOT PAYING FOR ALL EXPENSES!!!!!!!!!!!! Get on the phone people and tell UGA Athletic Association what you think of them. I am disgusted!!!!!!

pikedawg

April 14th, 2011
1:34 pm

devil’s advocate for a minute…should the University cover all medical expenses for a student who is paralyzed in a car wreck on campus? After all they had to be on campus to make it to class right? Any athlete understands the risks of playing major college sports. People are going to get hurt. Nobody has a gun to their head making them participate. They are not “employees” of the University. Why should the school be forced to pay up? The school did nothing negligent here. This young man will have high medical bills the remainder of his life. Is the school liable for ever kid that gets hurt? I hope not or it will be time to shut down all the major college athletics.

schmeckdawg

April 14th, 2011
1:38 pm

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:15 pm
Chip:

You need to clear this up for us. What exactly is the fund for? I am going to be outraged if this is for his medical expenses and future medical expenses. The AA insurance should cover ALL expenses. I just made a call to ask these questions and got shuffled all around the office. Call 706-542-9036 for yourself and let them know how you feel. We need some answers. Go Dawgs, but most importantly, Go JT!

nerda! nerds! nerds! Now you see how I felt. That is why I just went ahead and sent the donation. I do not have a lot of patience for BS bureaucracy!

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:38 pm

Not every kid, just the athletes that give their heart and soul to the University that I graduated from. They have to have insurance before they can play. My question is why are they getting the minimum insurance coverage? My University made $80 million profit in one year and they can’t cover this young man?

schmeckdawg

April 14th, 2011
1:40 pm

@ Buckeye

Very classy my man!

Insider

April 14th, 2011
1:43 pm

Depending on his recovery, JT may face lifeling non-medical expenese which could include modifying his home for a wheelchair(widening doorways, replacing carpet with tile or hardwood to accommodate a wheelchair), ramps, a van with a lift, and many more expesnes. I’m sure he had realisitc goals of earning money playing pro ball one day and now may have to rethink his financial and career goals (Shepherd Center will help with that), so he’s faicng someserious bills, potentially for the rest of his life, so anything folks can give to his fund will make a real difference forhim and his family.

JT

April 14th, 2011
1:45 pm

I am interested in what the fund is for as well since the NCAA has a catastrophic injury insurance program which has $20 million in lifetime benefits for a student injured in NCAA competition or practice…Perhaps it’s for the $90,000 deductible?

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaahome?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/NCAA/NCAA+News/NCAA+News+Online/2010/Association-wide/NCAA_catastrophic_injury_insurance_program_extended_NCAA_News_05_28_10

a1agator girl

April 14th, 2011
1:47 pm

Prayers and best wishes to Jonathan and family from down here in Gatorland. Sounds like if anyone can make it back, this kid can!

juvenal

April 14th, 2011
1:48 pm

you will be in my prayers, Johnathan……

observor

April 14th, 2011
1:49 pm

It doesn’t look like Chip spends much time reading his blog unlike is colleagues Schultz and Bradley that are all over the blogs and respond to comments and questions.

desiderata

April 14th, 2011
1:50 pm

Calling from germany , number 706-542-9036

nerds! nerds! nerds!

April 14th, 2011
1:52 pm

Where is Chip?

Chip Towers

April 14th, 2011
1:59 pm

REGARDING INSURANCE, ETC: Trust me when I say this, Jonathan Taylor is well-covered by catastrophic injury insurance policies provided by UGA and the NCAA that are quite generous and go a long way toward covering all medical costs. As I understand it, Georgia actually put policies in place after the Chance Veazey accident that supplement those benefits. However, there are still expenses that are incurred over and above and that could last a lifetime — well beyond the insurance policies limits — that’s what they are raising funds is for. . . . I’ve contacted the UGAA regarding this and will have an update later when I get some facts.

Chip Towers

April 14th, 2011
2:04 pm

observor: Not all my work is spent in front of a keyboard. And often we must obtain facts before responding.

JWN

April 14th, 2011
2:04 pm

There should not be even one cent that this young man or his family has to pay.
UGA needs to fully cover all his short term and lifetime expenses or be fully exposed if they do not!

Jack Handy

April 14th, 2011
2:05 pm

People, calm down. I would think the insurance will cover most cost for the acute recovery phase. I believe the donations are for the co-pays, which in this case could be 100,000. Also as another poster pointed out, there are many non-medical expenses too.