The First Time James Perdue Has To Depend On Someone–The Paramedics

Perdue's dream was to become a major league baseball player.

Perdue’s dream was to become a major league baseball player.

Editor’s Note: 19 year old James Perdue lay in the end zone after just scoring a touchdown for his team and getting hit late by an opposing player. In a few short seconds, Perdue realized he was paralyzed from the waist down and that his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player had ended. Part 3 of a 5 part series.

“Luckily one of the boys who was playing football with us was taking courses to become a paramedic,” Perdue recalls. “He took charge. He directed all the players still on the field to go get a blanket, and call 911. He took my pulse. He did everything that a paramedic would do that had arrived at an accident scene and found a patient who could have broken his neck. When the paramedics arrived, this student gave them all the information about my vital signs and my condition and told them what they needed to know to prevent further injury. I was rushed to a hospital in Pulaski, Tennessee. In the emergency room, none of the doctors or nurses would tell me what was causing the paralysis. They did x-rays and gave me a prick test. I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. The nursing assistant looked at my x-rays and at my medical chart, but I couldn’t convince her to tell me why I was paralyzed.

“Next I was transferred from Pulaski to Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Once I arrived, the people at the hospital called my family. When the doctor came in, I looked him squarely in the eye and asked, ‘How bad is it?’ ‘It’s bad enough that you never will walk again, and you may never be able to move any of your body from your neck down,’ he told me. And I said, ‘That’s pretty bad isn’t it?’ The doctor answered, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty bad. What’s even worse is that I have to do something right now that’s going to hurt badly. We’re putting two screws in your skull, while you’re awake. Once we get these screws in your skull, I’ll attach two tongs that I’ll then attach to a cable going to the screws. I’ll add weight to the other end of the cable to try and straighten your neck and get the vertebrae that are out place in your neck straight again. I’m not going to lie to you. This procedure is going to hurt really, really bad.’ I told the doctor to go ahead and do what he had to do, because I certainly couldn’t do anything to stop him from doing the procedure he’d described.

Perdue was determined to not be in a nursing home for the rest of his life.

Perdue was determined to not be in a nursing home for the rest of his life.

“The medical team brought-in a drill and drilled two holes – one on either side of my ears. Then they started screwing the screws into my head. I could feel the pressure and feel my skull seeming to crack. Then they attached the tongs to the bolts and ran a rope from the tongs over my head and over a pulley and attached a 10 pound weight to the pulley to stretch my neck and try to get the vertebrae in my neck to pop back into place. All I could think about as this whole procedure was taking place was spending the rest of my life in a nursing home. One of the reasons I was so fixated on the nursing home was because when I was 12 years old, my grandfather was put in a nursing home. About two rooms up from my grandfather, I met a man named J.T. When I was walking toward my grandfather’s room one day, J.T. called out and asked me to come into his room. When I went in to talk to J.T., I realized he was paralyzed from the neck down. He had been there ever since he’d been paralyzed, so I believed at that time that anyone paralyzed from the neck down had to spend the rest of his or her life in a nursing home. Although that thought terrified me, it also inspired me. I was determined to do whatever I had to do to not to be paralyzed from the neck down.

“I was also in a Stryker frame. The Stryker frame was a device to rotate me every hour to keep me from getting pressure sores. I’d spend 1 hour looking at the floor and then spend 2 hours looking at the ceiling, since I was flipped over for an hour on my stomach and then 2 hours lying on my back. I went through that drill for about 2 weeks. After the doctors decided that the vertebrae weren’t going back into place after stretching my neck, they operated on me by taking bone from my hip and attaching it to the vertebrae in my neck. Then the doctors wrapped wire around the bone in the vertebrae to stabilize my neck. Once I was out of surgery, I was allowed to be in a regular bed and had no more rotation.”

To learn more about Dr. James Perdue’s motivational speaking, go to or email him at

Next: James Perdue Figures Out A Plan For His Life

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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