Pushing Through Tragedy

Bryan+Geertgens+holds+a+photo+of+him+and+his+father.
Bryan Geertgens holds a photo of him and his father.

Bryan Geertgens holds a photo of him and his father.

Sydney Stam

Sydney Stam

Bryan Geertgens holds a photo of him and his father.

Lauren Brown, Sports Editor

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Senior Bryan Geertgens received the worst possible news he could imagine as a 16-year-old. His dad, also named Bryan, who was a man Geertgens looked up to, was given a week to live. Geertgens’ dad was suffering from liver and kidney failure, and was declining so quickly that doctors had no choice but to give him a limited time to live.

 

Geertgens prepared to say goodbye, and spent as much time with his dad as possible. A week passed, and much to the surprise of everyone, his father was still there. In fact, he made it all the way through Geertgens’ junior football season and well into the spring before dying on March 20, 2017.

 

That one football season meant the world to Geertgens. His father was able to watch him play for Highland where he scored some touchdowns, punted for varsity, worked hard at linebacker, and was a key contributor on other special teams. It appeared as though his father might even be able to last until Geertgens’ senior football season, but after being attacked outside of a bar that he owned and suffering from a traumatic head injury, his condition rapidly deteriorated, leading to his death this past spring.

 

“The two of them were really close,” Geertgens’ mom, Karen, said. “His dad taught him that hard work pays off and to treat everyone with respect.”

 

Some of Geertgens’ favorite memories with his dad include all the life lessons he would give him, such as not judging a book by its cover or just simple things like table manners.

 

“If I could show my dad how life is going now, I would show him how far I’ve come with academics and how respectful I’ve become,” Geertgens said.

 

Geertgens will always remember that football season they shared together. Moving forward to his senior year of football, Geertgens was hoping to play significant time at fullback, linebacker, and again as punter and on other special teams, but things quickly changed. On July 4, Geertgens was nearly paralyzed while on vacation at Laguna Beach.

 

Geertgens was vacationing in California with senior Ezra Dunford, and they decided to go boogie boarding. They were getting pretty big waves when one of the waves ripped on them. Dunford tumbled to his side while Geertgens went down, putting his arms straight in front of him. This resulted in both of his shoulders being dislocated as he rammed into the ocean floor. The waves pulled his legs over him and he scorpioned, where his feet actually went over his head instead of the ground while his chest was still on the ocean floor.

 

Geertgens rolled a few times in that position and then stood up and tried to walk. He immediately fell down, was put on a body board, and was rushed to the hospital. He was paralyzed for about two hours, unable to walk or feel his legs. Geertgens stayed at the hospital the rest of the day, and was finally able to walk again later that evening.

Geertgens was very fortunate that he wasn’t paralyzed for a longer period of time, and training for football could be the reason for that. Working out consistently and developing the core strength he had helped prevent the accident from being worse.

“If I wasn’t built the way I was, I would have probably broken my back and could have been paralyzed for life,” Geertgens said.

Although he didn’t break his back, he did seriously injure it. Geertgens has two bulging discs in his back now as a result of that accident. In an attempt to try and heal, he has been doing physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, icing, and heating, yet none of it seems to be helping. If things don’t start looking up, surgery is becoming a very real possibility.

“I’m usually always in pain, but I just push through it,” Geertgens said. “It feels like there is something always stabbing me in the back.”

Now unable to play his senior season of football, Geertgens is trying to turn his injury into an encouraging thing. He doesn’t want to dwell on the fact that he can’t play, but he wants to help out his teammates in any way that he can. He remains humble, because he has seen the other side of things.

For example, he has been helping senior Fernando Treceno improve in kicking and helps the fullbacks. He is always willing to be of assistance to them. Geertgens is also able to help other boys on the team who may have lost their dad.

Being there for others seems like the right thing to do for Geertgens as so many people have been there for him throughout the past year. He has had a very strong support system through his mom, his biological brother, his “brothers” on the football team, and his football coaches, especially coach Brody Benson.

“Coach Benson and I have talked a lot,” Geertgens said. “He is always ready to listen and helps me out in certain situations.”

Having a positive outlook on life has helped Geertgens get through the death of his dad and his back injury. He is able to move forward and see that he has a lot of great things in front of him. Geertgens has learned how to deal with the ups and downs of life, and knows there will be more hard times than the easy times. He has learned how to lean on others in times of need, and is grateful for everyone who has been there for him this past year.

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