At one point
during the debate over inducing hypothermia, Cappuccino called his wife, whose
medical judgment he trusts. She encouraged him to go with his instincts.
"I'm human," says Cappuccino. "Things passed through my mind. If I
do this and it blows up in my face, I'm exposing myself to a lot of scrutiny.
We could lose the house, lose the cars, the kids don't go to college. But I had
to be able to put my head on the pillow that night and believe that I did the
best job I could do."
placed on the CoolGard in the predawn hours of Monday, Sept. 10, and within two
hours his body had cooled to a temperature of 91.5°. That morning Everett was
able to squeeze his thighs against Cappuccino's hands. "Everybody was
stunned," says Cappuccino, "including me."
At a press
conference on Monday afternoon, Cappuccino intentionally painted a less
positive picture. "I'm an optimist," he said to a packed house at the
Bills' training facility, "but as a scientist and a clinician... I told
Kevin the chances for a full neurological recovery were bleak, dismal." In
retrospect, Cappuccino says, "I was [privately] cautiously optimistic, but
classifying the injury neurologically at that point, chances were still that he
would not walk."
to show increased muscle movement and sensitivity on Tuesday, and by Wednesday
he was removed from the ventilator. (He would remain on the cooling system for
another week to maintain a normal body temperature.) "I hardly remember
anything that happened in those first three or four days in the hospital,"
he says now. "I could tell I was better than I was on the field. That was
good. And I remember I wanted to be strong for my family. I didn't want them to
see me sad or crying."
too. They remember Everett's strength. His dignity. "His attitude was
amazing," says Snyder. "He was so strong for his family. I think it was
his attitude that allowed them to get through this. When he woke up [after
having the ventilator tube removed], the first thing he said was, 'Thank you.'
And then, 'How is my family?'"
Twelve days after
an injury that could have left him in a wheelchair for life, Everett flew to
Houston to begin rehab. Less than a month later he would be walking with
after Everett's injury, Barth Green, a neurosurgeon, scrolled through messages
on his PDA at The Miami Project's Lois Pope LIFE Center. "I've got e-mails
from colleagues telling me to stop talking about hypothermia and offering false
hope," says Green. "I've got 20 e-mails from people on the religious
right telling me that what took place with Kevin Everett is an act of God, not
science, that it's a miracle." He shrugs. This is nothing new. A onetime
wonder boy who entered college at 17 and medical school at 20, Green, 62, has
studied the potential beneficial effects of hypothermia for more than two
decades. He made himself the face of the hypothermia issue before Everett came
off the ventilator, when he proclaimed publicly on the Tuesday after the injury
that Everett would "walk out of the hospital."
The Miami Project
is a prodigious operation that has raised more than $200 million in 22 years
for its own spinal cord injury research. Its public faces are former Miami
Dolphins All-Pro linebacker Nick Buoniconti and his son, Marc, who suffered a
complete spinal cord injury while playing college football at The Citadel in
1985. Yet in the nearly three months since Everett left Buffalo, Green has
become the lightning rod for those in the medical community trying to quell the
Project made some strong statements in the aftermath of Kevin Everett's
treatment, saying that hypothermia helped get Kevin Everett up walking,"
says Brian Kwon, 36, a spine specialist at Vancouver (B.C.) General Hospital,
who is not convinced that hypothermia is helpful to patients with spinal cord
injuries. "They have tremendous scientists in Miami who are doing
fantastic, cutting-edge spinal cord injury research. But Kevin Everett is one
patient, and there has never been a published study of the treatment he
also felt some blowback. "There are doctors out there who think I'm some
kind of monster for experimenting on a human being," he says. "There
are colleagues of mine who think I'm crazy for doing what I did."