Grey's Anatomy storyline inspired by player injured in Broncos game

Sara Ramirez on Grey's Anatomy.

What did the Denver Broncos have to do with the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy? Plenty -- although the team's name was never mentioned.

One of the plotlines in last night's two-hour episode involved a man who suffered a severe spinal injury in an automobile crash. Army doctor Owen Hunt, a new character played by Kevin McKidd, suggested that the Seattle Grace hospital staff try a technique known as therapeutic hypothermia in an attempt to prevent the patient from suffering permanent paralysis. Dr. Derek Shepherd, aka "McDreamy" Patrick Dempsey, opposes the procedure because it could kill the man, but another physician, Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), is game to give it a try, since doctors at "Buffalo General" made a paralyzed football player walk again thanks to its use.

Sound familiar? It should to anyone who was watching the September 9, 2007 contest between the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos, when Bills special teamer Kevin Everett suffered what could have been a fatal injury while trying to tackle Broncos kick returner Domenik Hixson.

As richly detailed in "The Road Back," a Tim Layden feature published by Sports Illustrated, Andrew Cappuccino, a Bills doc who's also an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal injuries, used what was then considered to be an experimental hypothermia treatment on Everett that prevented further damage to his spine until a surgical team at the city's Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital could begin working on him. Buffalo General is actually closer to the team's stadium, but Cappuccino chose Fillmore because he knew the facility had Magnetic Resonance Imaging technicians on duty 24 hours a day. That one must have slipped by the Grey's fact checkers.

The results of Cappuccino's efforts were nothing less than miraculous. As Layden writes, "Twelve days after an injury that could have left him in a wheelchair for life, Everett flew to Houston to begin rehab. Less than a month later he would be walking with assistance."

There was a happy ending on Grey's Anatomy, too. The therapeutic hypothermia works, and by the show's end, the injured patient is showing signs of movement. If Everett was watching, he was doubtless pleased by this resolution -- and betcha any Broncos on the field that grim day last year were, too. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts