For Randy Waugh, everything about life changed on Feb. 10


The Kickoff

May 01, 2007|By MILTON KENT

It's almost standard procedure for virtually everyone who stands at the precipice between life and death to declare he or she has been transformed once being pulled back, to say that nothing will ever be the same.

Randy Waugh, an attacker on Severna Park's boys lacrosse team, has made a similar pledge, 2 1/2 months after a freak skateboarding accident cost him nearly all of his senior season, and nearly his life.

You got the feeling, however, as Waugh scored four goals last night in his first game of the season, a 14-7 win over Southern, that this promise isn't just of the moment, that it really means something and that it will hold for the rest of his life.

"Me and all my friends and, to be honest, my whole school have learned a lesson," Waugh said. "This is the most serious thing that's happened in my four years at school.

"I'm 18 and I feel so much older now. I feel so mature. I'll go out and see a lot of people doing something dumb, and I'll say: `Calm down. You don't want to have what happened to me.' I try to be an influence."

To understand from where Waugh's wisdom has emerged, a trip back to the night - Feb. 10 - and the place - the Fairwinds on the Severn neighborhood - might be in order.

Waugh and some of his friends were hanging out just before midnight, waiting for another friend to get home, when someone got the not-so-bright idea to add some speed to a skateboard ride by holding on to the side of a Jeep driven, police said, by Waugh's teammate, Eric Lusby.

And, of course, there were no helmets or elbow or knee pads to be found, but those might not have changed what happened. Waugh said he took off holding on to Lusby's Jeep on the driver's side near the back window, when he hit a pothole - one of several on the street - and went flying.

When Waugh hit the ground, he was moving so fast that there wasn't time to throw his hands out, as you might do when you're about to fall.

Instead, his head caught the full pavement, opening a deep gash on his face, as well bursting an artery, sending blood gushing.

"It was really scary for my friends when I fell being so close to the car," Waugh said. "When we hit the pothole that I hit, they felt a [thump] and then they looked back. I have great friends. They're the ones that saved my life. The doctors said if they hadn't wrapped up my head right away and called 911 right away, I wouldn't have made it."

Lusby, a fellow attacker, and defenseman Kevin Zichelli, who was also in the Jeep, jumped out and called rescue officials and then Waugh's father, who had spoken to his son 10 minutes before the accident.

"To be honest, if it wasn't me that fell, it could have been one of my friends, because I don't know if we could have made it through that run," Waugh said. "My friends have said that they would have been the next to go on the skateboard."

Waugh was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he remained in a coma and on life support for two days. He had head injuries, scars on his legs, a ruptured spleen, two broken ribs and reduced hearing in his left ear.

What he doesn't have are the telltale scars on his hands and arms, where one might expect them from trying to brace for a fall. That's because his face and head hit the ground too fast for him to adopt a defensive pose.

"It was really not a good thing," Waugh said.

Waugh was out of the hospital nine days after the accident, and though he returned for a brief stay, he was out for good in time for the first day of lacrosse practice March 1, just in time to introduce himself to new coach Larry Kramer.

Waugh, who will play at Division II Limestone next year, said he did push-ups and sit-ups and ran to maintain his conditioning and to regain his strength after he lost 20 pounds while in the hospital.

He watched practice and studied the offense. After getting clearance from his parents and an uncle, who is a neurosurgeon, Waugh, who began practicing last week, got the go-ahead to play yesterday from the school's athletic director, fully recognizing that "scoring a couple of goals isn't worth losing your life."

Waugh doesn't remember much about the fall. Much of what he knows about the accident he has been told. A doctor said the injuries he suffered at the 25 mph that the Jeep was traveling were equivalent to being in a car crash at speeds of 80 to 90 mph.

What Waugh also knows and realizes is that he put his friends and family through an ordeal. He went back to the accident scene three weeks ago and saw the stains from his blood. His sister has told him about how their mother cried when the helicopter took off to fly him to Shock Trauma.

"It's very hard to hear all this stuff and think about how long it's going to take for them to get back to normal," Waugh said.

During follow-up visits to Shock Trauma, Randy Waugh said he saw patients who suffered the same kind of trauma that he did who were in wheelchairs and unable to speak.

Seeing that and knowing he has been given a second chance makes him alternately angry at himself for having been so nearly tragically reckless and determined to stay away from the precipice for as long as possible.

"It's a miracle," Waugh said. "I still think about how lucky I am to even step on the field. I'm very, very excited to get on the field. This is going to be a lesson that sticks with me for the rest of my life. I will never forget this."

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