Bills team medical director Dr. John Marzo called it "new and substantial" information on injured tight end Kevin Everett. And when Dr. Kevin Gibbons spoke the developments sounded encouraging, but there is still a long way to go in terms of recovery for the tight end who suffered a cervical spine injury last Sunday in the season opener against Denver.
On Tuesday just two days after surgery Everett demonstrated some improvement in moving his legs when tested.
"He had clear improvement in the motor function of his legs," said Dr. Gibbons the director of the neurological ICU at Millard Fillmore Gates hospital. "He was able to move his legs together and apart, wiggles his toes and had slight movement from his ankle. He was able to kick out his lower leg against gravity with his knee raised. He was able to slightly extend his elbow with his triceps muscle."
With those signs of muscle movement the doctors decided to begin warming Everett's body to do further testing. It had been cooled during and following surgery to reduce swelling.
"The decision was made to begin warming him," said Gibbons. "We did that over the next 12 hours. During the course of this time with the sedation lifted we were able to repetitively examine Kevin with continued anti-gravity power and continued movement in one muscle in his arms. This morning he continued to demonstrate improvement in his legs to the point where he can bend his hip and has the ability to straighten out his knee. He demonstrates continued power in his ankles. He has somewhat improved triceps function in that he can just overcome gravity with his left triceps. His biceps function seems to fluctuate. He has no movement in his hands."
Doctors were also able to take him off the ventilator Wednesday. And though that will increase the complexity of his management in the ICU Dr. Gibbons considered it a big step.
"That's a major achievement for somebody with his level of injury at this point in his hospital care," Gibbons said.
On Thursday Everett will undergo tests to see how well his diaphragm is functioning when it comes to bringing air into his lungs.
There are complications that Everett still faces. Blood clots in his legs are still a possibility which can be life threatening. The threat of a stroke also exists due to the vertebral artery injury he suffered in addition to the deformity of his spinal cord. As a result Everett will remain in ICU for the foreseeable future. No further surgery is on the horizon at this time, but some of the aforementioned complications could change that.
The physicians who performed the surgery said some questions have been answered, but many remain. They also reiterated that Everett is looking at months of recovery.
According to Dr. Gibbons the Bills tight end understands everything that has taken place and what is to come.
"He voices that he understands what's happening to him," said Gibbons. "He realizes in part what lies ahead. His mother has been by his bedside since about noon on Monday. She is pleased, not ecstatic, over what has happened since she has come to town. She understands that this is a life changing event, and knows it will continue over months to years."
Everett's condition was grouped into the second worst class of spinal cord injuries when he was initially assessed. Following the latest developments he's almost met all the requirements to be upgraded to the next best class.
"It requires movement against gravity in five major muscle groups and he has movement in four," said Dr. Andrew Cappuccino.
Gibbons called Everett's improvement significant, but maintained that there is still a long way to go.
"The speed with which it's occurred is a great sign," said Gibbons. "Have we seen it before? Yes. In part there were many things in his favor including the fact that he had deformity of his cord, but not a transection, that he never went into spinal shock and his early management. But when we discussed this during and after surgery it's a longshot that he'll have full use of his arms or legs, but it's not impossible."
When asked if he will walk again Dr. Gibbons made it clear that it's against the odds, but wouldn't rule it out.
"I wouldn't bet against it," said Gibbons.