Lacrosse player escapes death not once, but twice

From the sports editor

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BRAD SPENCER

Let's all take at the very least 60 seconds out of our busy lives today to think about Ari Franklin. The OPRF lacrosse player has been through quite a dilemma the last few weeks. No, dilemma is too spongy a word. Ari has been through hell.

The first time he went to the hospital, the doctors told Ari, "You're lucky you're not dead." The second time he went to the hospital, for reasons unrelated to the first, the doctor's told him, "You're lucky you're not in a coma."

It began on a chilly day in mid-April. During practice while running a 6-on-6 drill, Ari, a senior midfielder, did what he was supposed to do when an opposing player takes a shot on goal?#34;try to block it. He was just 7-feet away, and the ball was rifled, for lack of a better word. Somehow, someway the ball snuck under his face mask and struck Ari just below his Adam's apple. The blow was knee-buckling, jarring, debilitating. His coach cringed, then immediately called for the trainer.

"When I saw that ball ricochet off of him and he grabbed his chest, I thought the worst," said OPRF lacrosse coach Dan Ganschow. "I keep myself updated on some of the injuries that can occur while playing a contact sport so I can be useful if something arises. And I'd read about heart arrhythmias, where an athlete could get hit in a specific spot on the chest hard enough to where his heart will stop. At first, I thought that was what had happened."

Ari initially struggled to breathe, but the air did finally come. In fact, except for some discomfort in his throat, Ari eventually said he felt fine. There was no blood. There was only minimal swelling. He even attended a barbecue that evening at a fellow teammate's house. He didn't eat or talk much, but that's to be expected when a few hours earlier you had tried to catch a ball in your gullet.

But Ari's discomfort didn't ease the next day and his voice still seemed Bruce Springsteen-like. His parents took him to the doctor, who was astounded Ari wasn't dead. He had fractured his trachea, dislocated his voice box, and suffered a severe hematoma of the throat. Apparently, the swelling alone should have suffocated him. Ari was rushed into surgery and a titanium plate was inserted in his throat.

"Never would I have thought that this particular incident could have been a life threatening situation," said Ganschow, who was moved when Ari's mother Linda told him that before going into surgery Ari had but one request: Tell the coach not to cut me from the team (never crossed Ganschow's mind).

For some reason, still baffling to Ari and the doctors, the swelling didn't cut off Ari's air passage.

But when I called Ari's house last week to find out how the recovery was coming along, his father, John, informed me that Ari had been admitted to the hospital again the previous night for something unrelated to the lacrosse injury. While watching his team take on Lane Tech May 3, Ari felt numbness on his left side. OPRF's athletic trainer summoned his parents, who took him immediately to the hospital. He was then transported to Rush, the same hospital where he underwent surgery for the fractured trachea.

Ari had suffered cerebral bleeding, which was unrelated to his lacrosse injury. Doctors told him he was born with undeveloped blood vessels in his brain that had coincidently burst after his trachea injury. They inserted a tube in his head to drain fluid.

"My goal is to walk across the stage at graduation on my own," said Ari, who, thanks to some intense physical therapy, was up and about on Monday morning itching to go home. Ari still has some trouble with his left side but doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

Oh, by the way, his throat is feeling better too.

CONTACT:bspencer@wjinc.com

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