Bledsoe's near-death experience

Drew Bledsoe

As the Bills prepare to take on the Patriots, Drew Bledsoe's family could be forgiven if it reflected on how it might have lost not just a quarterback but also a son/brother/husband/father. [This is an excerpt of an article that appears in this week's Shout!. Call 1-800-93-BILLS to score a copy.]

It was a little more than a year ago – Sept. 23, 2001 – when Bledsoe suffered an injury that could be unprecedented in the annals of sports medicine. For his brother, Adam, there was a frightening ride through traffic with Drew lapsing in and out of consciousness.

 "When you have a son in pro football," said his father, Mac Bledsoe, "it's not a question of whether he's going to get hurt, but when and how bad. This truly was a life-threatening injury."

 "I don't think we've ever seen an injury like this in a professional athlete," Dr. David Berger, who treated the quarterback at Massachusetts General Hospital, said last Nov. 13 when clearing Drew Bledsoe to return to football."

What was the injury? A sheared blood vessel in his chest, which caused internal bleeding that flooded his chest cavity with blood. It resulted from a hit on the sidelines by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.

Bledsoe recalled, "After the game when I went in the training room and started getting undressed, that's when I realized that something was going on in my rib cage or something. I wasn't feeling good so they decided to take me to the hospital."

Adam Bledsoe climbed in the ambulance with his brother for the ride through congested traffic on the one road out of Foxboro nearly 40 miles to the hospital in Boston. He related the experience to their mother, Barbara Bledsoe. A week before her elder son took on his old team for the first time, she described the ride.

"It was a pretty shattering experience for Adam. Cars didn't want to move out of the way for the ambulance. Motorcycle police had to bang on car windows to get them to move.

"Every time the ambulance would hit a bump, Drew would lose consciousness. Adam thought he had died."

The other day, his mother, Barbara Bledsoe, said, "The reality of it was that we could have lost him. It's the kind of thing that you hear it with your head, but you don't understand it with your heart. Had the ambulance been slower … "

Drew could have survived the injury but lost his career.

"If they would have had to open him up," his mother said, "that might have been the end of his career. The interior of the chest cavity is lined with nerves. That area gives torque to his throwing motion. So if they had been cut, all that might not have worked very well."

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