Michigan QB Wilton Speight’s Parents Say Purdue’s Medical Treatment Of Their Son Was A ‘Train Wreck’
On September 23rd, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight suffered three fractured vertebrae in his back when he was sacked while playing Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. According to the quarterback’s parents, Bobby and Martha Speight, the medical treatment he ended up receiving from the Purdue athletic department was frighteningly inadequate.
Two days after the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh went off on Purdue, saying, among other things, “Gamesmanship should cease at the line of health and safety for the players,” and that “there needs to be a way to X-ray a player at the stadium. There has to be a minimum standard of care for the players.”
His comment about being able to X-ray a player recently took on even more significance thanks to the story Wilton Speight’s parents told to the Detroit News about what actually went on following his son’s devastating injury.
“What an absolute train wreck,” Bobby Speight said of the experience.
As soon as they saw Wilton injured on the field, stadium police helped them get from their Ross-Ade Stadium seats to be with their son.
“Wilton gets hit and didn’t move for a little while, which is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Bobby Speight said. “The police took us down but were unable to open the door. Someone who appeared to be a member of the food staff realized what was going on and let us in. When that door opened, even in high school I had never been in a visiting locker room that bad. It was dark, dingy, dirty.”
There was no capability to take X-rays in the stadium. Purdue’s original statement said it made clear that “basic X-ray is available within our athletic footprint and more sophisticated capabilities are located two blocks away, similar to the arrangements at many other schools.”
But wait, it somehow actually gets worse. Instead of being taken to a hospital in an ambulance for X-rays, Speight was forced to ride in the front seat of a van (with three fractured vertebrae in his back) provided by Purdue and driven by a student.
“We take off with no escort,” Bobby Speight said. “We can’t get through because there are barricades up and (the van driver is) directing people to move them.”
They reached the Purdue University Student Health Center and headed downstairs.
“They take us in the basement,” Bobby Speight said. “It’s very dimly lit. Halfway down the hall, there’s a (radiology) technician. Wilton is in (partial) uniform and still wearing cleats, and she asks Wilton his name. The (van driver) says he needs an X-ray. (The technician) looks at me and says, ‘I need your insurance card.’”
(A) The University Student Health Center? And (B) I need your insurance card?! He was still wearing his uniform. The NCAA requires all of its universities to provide student-athletes with insurance.
But hey, at least they finally got those X-rays, right? Sort of…
The Michigan doctors requested several X-rays, and there was a short delay because of issues putting the X-ray requests in the computer system. The technician was able to get the pictures, but transmission to a satellite facility failed, making it impossible for the Michigan doctors to examine the X-rays on a high-resolution screen. They thought they could miss diagnosing even the smallest of fractures on a lower-resolution version.
So then Michigan’s team doctors decided that Speight needed to, you know, go to an actual hospital. One problem though, Purdue officials didn’t know which hospital to send them to and since all full-time EMS units were tied up they ended up having to get a ride from a volunteer rescue team, which took 20 minutes to arrive.
“At that point, Wilton says he has tingling in his legs and is in substantial pain. The EMT riding in the back of the ambulance asks us if we need an IV or vital monitoring and Trinh replied, ‘No, but we need him stable and immobile. This is a back injury.’ We stop at a light, and the Michigan doctor asks how long is it going to take, and (the EMT) said 30 to 45 minutes on game day.
“Our doctor asked him, ‘Couldn’t we please turn on the siren and make better time?’ And (the rescue squad member) said, ‘Don’t you get smart with me. You said this is a non-vital trip.’ Our doctor said, ‘I don’t care what I told you, this boy has tingling in his legs. Turn the siren on and go.’
“There was no urgency at all,” Bobby Speight said of how it was all handled.
Thankfully, it appears that Wilton will make a full recovery, because according to Dr. Brad Ahlgren, a spine specialist and part of Michigan Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeons, if Speight could have suffered nerve issues because of the way his injury was handled.