Community rallies around Newton wrestler with broken neck

COVINGTON -- There is no question that a severe injury to 16-year-old Tyler Head's neck was bad. But at the same time it was a blessing by showing him and his family how loved and how many friends care about them.

"That's really restored our faith in humanity," his sister, Nicole Swart, said. "People that don't know Tyler or know us are praying for us, wanting to know what they can do for us. It's heart warming to have that kind of reaction from strangers and people that we already know."

Those familiar with the family have brought food to them and even offered to care for their pets while they are sitting with their son at the Shepherd Spinal Center. Then there are the caring voices on the other end of the phone when his mother, Deborah, calls someone at 3 a.m. because she's scared or needs to be comforted. People they barely know have offered to cook for them and have stopped his parents offering their prayers and even making donations for hospital bills.

"People have come to visit at the hospital and offer a shoulder to cry on. But most of all the prayers, you can never have enough prayers. The fact that people are taking time out of their day to think of us and pray for healing and recovery is the best thing we can ask for," Swart said. "We just want to thank everybody because it's impossible to contact everybody and tell them thank you."

While wrestling in his third bout of the day at the Rockdale Duals on Dec. 29, Head was thrown in a legal move, bringing him down on flat on his back. The impact resulted in broken C-5 and C-6 vertebrae pinching his spinal cord. After being transported to the Level-1 Trauma Center at the Atlanta Medical Center and stabilized, Head had surgery to his neck where the vertebrae were repaired with titanium.

"He's at the Shepherd Spinal Center and from what I've heard, the fact that he's gotten into the spinal center as quickly as he has is amazing," Swart said. "Usually people are in their hospital for months before they can get into the spinal center. That way they have time to heal and get over any type of infection they might get from surgery or being in bed. He's just trying to overcome that in a week's time."

At first, the doctors said that there would not be any movement. But he is already showing signs that he's getting stronger and better with movement in his left arm and he's starting to get feeling in his right arm. The doctor's are waiting until Monday to start his rehabilitation and check to see if he has movement in his legs.

"All his vitals are great. He's 16 years old and in excellent condition. His body has the power to deal, he just has to make sure he has enough rest," Swart said. "Hopefully, get back to full Tyler again. Whatever he puts his mind to, he'll be able to do it."

One thing that he has in his favor is that, being a wrestler, he has the fighter spirit which can only be an asset as he starts the long road back to recovery.

Head, a student at Newton's Career Academy, has hopes of going to college for video broadcasting. With a love of NASCAR, a future of race car driving is hopefully in his future.

"We appreciate all the prayers and thoughts. We have realized that we have a lot of people in our corner," Swart said. "We didn't take them for granted but you don't necessarily think about it until something like this happens. Then you realize how many people really care and are willing to help you when you need it."