SULLIVAN, Ohio– A Northeast Ohio teenager who was left paralyzed from the waist down in a snow-tubing accident in February vows that he will walk and run again.
Tommy Smithberger was an energetic sophomore who loved to play football at Black River High School in Ashland County. Then on Feb. 7, he had a terrible accident. He was on a tube, being pulled by a four-wheeler when he slammed into a tree.
“I just thought I got the wind knocked out of me, till that went away and then I thought I broke my ribs. And then, I couldn’t feel my legs,” the 16-year-old said.
He was taken by medical helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center for emergency surgery. When his parents arrived, doctors gave them the news.
Tommy injured his spinal cord and a surgeon predicted it would take five or six years for him to walk again.
“I was a little upset, but I said, ‘Game on.’ I’m going to get through this,” Tommy said.
Black River assistant football coach Matt Stafford said he was devastated when he Tommy in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the waist down.
“You feel sick to your stomach. And at that point right there, I just made a commitment that I’m going to do everything I can to get him back on his feet,” Stafford said.
The two have been working at the Black River gym seven days a week. The results can only be called astounding.
“His surgeon told him that he expects him to be in walking braces in 14 months. Tommy told the surgeon that he’s going to do it in seven and that’s our goal,” Stafford said.
Tommy said he plans to be back on the football field for his senior year.