Tyler Ruby is lucky to be alive.
And the only reason the Meadowdale senior co-captain, his family, friends, teammates and coaches know this is because of what appeared to be a serious injury suffered by Ruby during last Friday’s football game against Edmonds-Woodway at Edmonds Stadium.
Rudy, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound middle linebacker, and an opponent collided with some helmet-to-helmet contact. Ruby took the worst of the blow and fell to the ground. He didn’t black out but something definitely wasn’t right.
“I lost all feeling in my arm and my left leg,” Ruby said. “I was conscious. I couldn’t control my body. I tried standing up and I just fell back down immediately.”
The fire department was dispatched and Ruby was lifted onto a stretcher and transported to Swedish Edmonds. A CAT scan was ordered because doctors were concerned Ruby might have suffered a concussion.
What the doctor had to say to Ruby about the results floored him.
The doctor told Ruby that he had a condition called Arnold–Chiari, which is a structural deformity involving the brain and spinal cord. It has been thought that only about 1 in 1,000 people have the condition, which Ruby has had since birth. But the increased use of diagnostic testing, such as CAT scans, indicates that the condition may be more common.
The worst news was when the doctor told Ruby what he could and could not do because of the condition. Ruby had just played the final football game of career.
“It was pretty hard news. … They said I should have never played football ever,” Ruby said. “It puts me at severe risk of getting paralyzed or dying.”
It was an emotional night for Ruby who was discharged around 11:30 p.m. that night. Ruby’s mother and Meadowdale coach Matt Leonard were at the hospital.
Leonard told Ruby how fortunate he was to be walking out of the ER on his own power with no long term effects from the injury.
“The doctor told us he was lucky to have survived through contact sports but that he could never ever play contact sports again,” Leonard said. “Truly, this injury was a blessing in disguise.”
Ruby’s mother, a medical assistant, became very emotional after hearing the news. His mother knew how much football meant to Ruby.
“She was crying because I can’t do the thing I love and she was just crying because she didn’t know that she had been signing paperwork for me to go out and play, which is a thing I should have never been doing,” Ruby said.
Two years ago, Ruby had a CAT scan after suffering a similar injury playing football but the condition wasn’t picked up at that time.
Ruby feels he is both lucky and unlucky. He was looking forward to his senior season of football and being able to play with all the friends he’s grown up with since he was little.
“I love all these guys. … I’m unlucky that I can’t play with them,” he said. “But if I do have Arnold–Chiari. It’s serious. (The injury) saved my life – by not playing football. I am very sad. The only thing going through my head when I got hit was ‘Get up. Get up.’ And I would have, if my legs would have let me.”
Ruby plans to see a neurosurgeon to determine if he needs any type of treatment for the condition. While he won’t be out on the field anymore, Ruby’s leadership role on the team hasn’t changed. Ruby plans to be there for his teammates and help them in any way he can. He’ll continue to work with the younger players, who were backing him up.
“I’m going to keep coaching them,” Ruby said. “I’m just going to do my best to lead them.”
Leonard is glad Ruby will continue to be a part of the football program.
“He’s going to still be around,” Leonard said. “His role has changed. It’s like having another coach out there. It’s important for our young kids.”
— By David Pan