WESTWOOD — Just days removed from sustaining a serious spinal injury, Santa Monica High School’s Cody Williams appears to have the entire school community pulling for him.
Since injuring himself during Samohi’s season opener last Friday against Leuzinger, Williams has been receiving treatment at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with his mother faithfully at his side, a family spokesperson said.
He underwent surgery on Saturday and began the early stages of therapy this week, his aunt Tricia Smith said. She added that he has some movement in his arms and upper torso, but declined to elaborate on the seriousness of the injury until doctors can further evaluate how he is responding to the surgery.
“He’s healing well,” Smith said. “He’s very tired. (Doctors) are watching him closely.
“He has a long road to recovery ahead.”
While he battles to overcome an injury that often times leads to paralysis, those close to him are cautiously optimistic in regards to the final prognosis, which may take 6 to 12 months to evaluate.
“Everybody is hoping for the best,” Samohi Athletic Director Norm Lacy said. “I look forward to him walking out next year to do the coin toss during the first game of the season.”
Once word spread of the injury, a groundswell of support grew including fundraising efforts and kind words from people in high places.
It is unsure how USC’s Pete Carroll heard of the injury, but the celebrated football coach wasted little time in coming to Williams’ side. He visited with him on Monday, wishing him a speedy recovery and even promised him that he was welcome on the sidelines of any Trojan game and even went as far as to invite him to a future practice.
Smith said that the gesture had special meaning for Williams, who counts the Trojans as his favorite college team.
Williams’ list of well wishers includes Marcus McNeil of the San Diego Chargers, another of his favorite teams. The star offensive tackle dedicated Monday’s game against the Oakland Raiders to Williams via his Twitter page. Carroll also used the popular social networking site to wish him well.
It is only fitting that the Internet has been utilized to rally support. Samohi student Shugoofa Zarifi created a group on Facebook to chronicle his condition. The group, “We Love You Cody Williams,” has amassed 764 members in the few days since it was launched and is being used as the primary source for updates regarding his injury and the efforts to raise funds for his treatment.
Smith and other family members have created a bank account that will be used to collect any money raised for treatment. Those who would like to contribute are being encouraged to contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lacy said that fundraising efforts on campus are in the early stages, but said that anything raised by school-affiliated groups would be routed to the Cody Williams Recovery Fund started by Smith. He said that a number of campus groups have come forward to help the cause and that he and other faculty are currently devising ways to orchestrate those efforts.
The injury, believed to be the first of its kind in recent school history, has certainly had an effect on the team and student body. As a result, school officials have made counseling services available and a meeting has been scheduled for today at the campus library at 6:30 p.m. The session will focus on trauma.
Counseling has also been made available to Williams’ teammates, who have been shaken by this incident. Players have been filling their Facebook and Twitter pages with well wishes for Williams.
Senior linebacker Luke Zelon said that the team was excited to hear that Williams has made progress since Friday.
Offensive Coordinator Jason Battung said that everybody on the team is dealing with the situation in different ways. He said that players who are closer to Williams are taking it the hardest, but added that it has been difficult for the entire team.
“It is so fresh,” Battung said. “It is still in its reactionary stage until we find out more.”
For Lacy, he can only hope that time heals all wounds.
“We just have to let nature and God take their course,” Lacy said.