The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

February 16, 2014

Boys of Summer: Two stories that deserve to be told

(Continued)

(Those interested in helping to defray the medical costs for Maverick Nixon can contact NOC Tonkawa through its website. All contributions go directly toward medical expenses.)

Brooks Russell not a typical ‘5-star’ recruit

Nearly two weeks removed from the hoopla of signing day, it’s hard to imagine any athlete’s commitment bringing more smiles, and tears of joy, than the signing of Brooks Russell.

His story is unusual, but resonates from Tennessee to Oklahoma, and points in between and afar.

Most signing day stories of course focused on football, but it was a collegiate baseball team in Nashville, Tenn., that scored that day’s most prized recruit on Feb. 5.

It was a ceremony attended by four local television stations, Lipscomb coaches, players, cheerleaders and of course the proud parents.

And when the “five-star recruit,” as he was called by Lipscomb head baseball coach Jeff Forehand was introduced, the recruit seemed overwhelmed. And why not? After all, he is only 5 years old.

Oh, and one more thing you need to know: He has a brain tumor.

‘Mom, I’m famous!’

With microphones, photographers and cameras rolling, Brooks inked his name on a national letter of intent with the NCAA Division 1 school, which competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

“He was shy with the cameras and microphones,” said Brooks’ mom, Kari Russell.

“Once they left, he took a tour of the locker room, gave high-fives, then he came back in and said, “Mom, I’m famous!”

Lipscomb put the signing event video on its website (lipscombsports.com), and according to Jamie Gilliam, the school’s director of athletic communications, it shattered the school’s web traffic record, more than tripling it.

“The signing event was incredible,” Gilliam said.

‘Daddy, they took my legs’

The event came after a long, arduous road of treatment for Brooks, including chemotherapy and surgery that left him temporarily paralyzed. He was diagnosed the day after his fourth birthday with pilocytic astrocytoma (brain tumor) in his spinal cord that was about eight inches long.

It was a scary time. “You read about other kids with cancer, it’s never your kid,” Kari said. She said receiving the news was surreal. “You are so overwhelmed, you can’t even cry.”

Brooks began chemo in 2012 and finished it in 2013.

He was confined to a wheelchair for six weeks following surgery that removed part of the tumor.

Mom recalls after he awoke from his surgery, Brooks looked up to his dad, and said, “Daddy, they took my legs off.”

“Can you imagine being a 4-year-old, going to sleep for surgery and waking up paralyzed,” Kari said.

They didn’t take his legs off, but he had no feeling at all in his legs.

“We were freaking out. They were pinching his legs and he couldn’t feel them,” Kari said. “We were told that was normal.”

Extensive physical therapy, and his own determination, had Brooks walking again. Kari said it took him two weeks to re-learn how to walk. She said he has no feeling in his thighs and wears braces to help stabilize him when he walks.

He will never have the same function as he did pre-surgery, as nerves were cut to remove the tumor. But, the prognosis is very promising. He has finished the chemo treatments and will require an MRI every three months to monitor the tumor. If it stays dormant, nothing further will need to be done. However, if it grows again, more chemo will be needed.

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