By Rubin E. Grant
As Hoover was preparing for its big football game against Thompson two weeks ago, former Buc Ben Abercrombie was back in the hospital.
Abercrombie was planning to go to the game, as he had the Bucs’ opener against Pinson Valley, but he couldn’t because of an infection related to his spinal injury.
It’s been a year since Abercrombie sustained a paralyzing neck injury while playing as a freshman cornerback for Harvard in his first college football game, a Sept. 16, 2017, game against Rhode Island.
He is confined to a $75,000 wheelchair, which he maneuvers by using a sip and puff control that also controls his iPhone. At 12 months since the injury, he still can’t breathe on his own and is dependent on a ventilator.
“It’s been challenging,” said Marty Abercrombie, his dad. “We have learned a lot about spinal cord injuries that we never knew anything about. It’s been an adjustment for Ben and our family.”
Despite the recent hospital visit, Ben, 19, is progressing.
“Ben has made a tremendous recovery,” Marty Abercrombie said. “Spinal cord injuries are devastating. Medical communities are still learning how to treat them and learning how treatments can help get functionality back. There’s a lot of research. There’s no magic formula that helps heal these kind of injuries.
“(The infection) is a bump in the road. It’s frustrating, but he’s learning that’s part of the process, given his situation.”
When he got out of the hospital after treatment for the infection, Ben returned home to go through his daily routine, which includes working out and doing range-of-motion exercises.
“He does three different physical workouts,” Marty Abercrombie said. “One he does with my niece, Chelsea Henderson, who is a personal trainer and comes by twice a week. He does that for about an hour. He does some in his wheelchair and some on the exercise mat we have in our house.”
In July, Ben started going to Cubed3, tucked in the building behind Ragtime Café at 2080 Valleydale Road Suite 8 in Hoover, to work out with personal trainer Frankie Romano. Romano has experience working with spinal cord injuries and has Ben on a routine. Ben does some exercises in his wheelchair and on a performance table.
In August, Ben tried out a standing wheel chair.
“It was an incredible experience for Ben and our family,” Marty Abercrombie said. “For the first time since last September Ben was standing up and moving around.”
Marty Abercrombie said Ben’s prognosis is unknown. “Unfortunately, when you suffer a spinal cord injury, it is difficult to regain functionality in the impacted area,” Marty said. “We have hope that all the physical therapy and new technology will help Ben regain a lot of functionality, but it’s uncertain. We have faith that some way or somehow things will work out.
“Ben has maintained an incredible positive attitude. He’s never doubted that he would walk again or breathe on his own again. He has tremendous faith and drive to make it happen.
“He inspires us every day. We got to see the (Boston) Red Sox when they were in Atlanta. Both organizations were so nice to us. One of the gentlemen who was helping us with Ben said Ben was such an inspiration to him and it made his year.”
The Abercrombies have received an outpouring of support from the community and elsewhere since Ben’s devastating injury.
“God has used a lot of his servants – he has sent so many people our way – to help,” Marty said. “The folks at Harvard have been wonderful in their support of Ben and our family and so have the folks in Hoover.
“We’ve gotten to see the compassionate part of people. It’s so wonderful. That’s the biggest positive of this whole journey. It’s inspired us and made our faith stronger. We know God has great plans for Ben. We want to help Ben fulfill God’s plan for him.”
Returning to Harvard
A year from now, the Abercrombies hope Ben will be able to return to Harvard and resume his college studies. He plans to major in economics.
“He really wants to get back up to Boston,” Marty Abercrombie said. “We hope to go to the Harvard-Yale game in November, so he can visit with his teammates and coaches. We also want to do some research at Harvard so things will be in place when he goes back to study.”
Ben’s persevering spirit enables him and family to continue to fight.
“Last year when he got injured it certainly changed his world and turned our world upside down,” Marty Abercrombie said. “We have had to fight through it. We are doing our best to not let the challenges ahead prevent Ben from achieving his goals.
“My wife, Sherri, and I will support him any way possible to put the plans in place so he can continue his education.
“When something like this happens, you have to put your life on hold. We feel it’s important for Ben to see the future and that it’s not always going to be like this. You have to stay in your faith and look toward the future.”