Richmond teen meets doctor who saved his life


RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — Working with athletes on the sidelines of high school football games is a fun part of the job for Reid Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gregory Woods.

Justin Murphy loves performing with the Richmond High School marching band. "Band is pretty much like my other family to me. What else would I do during the summer?"

On Sept. 21, at the Richmond High School homecoming football game, Woods decided to stay on the sidelines to watch the band perform "The Star Spangled Banner" instead of heading into the locker room with the football team as he often does.

Justin, 15, was playing baritone and felt a little pain in his chest. Then he started having trouble breathing and felt a lot of pain. "Oh, God, this really hurts," he remembers thinking.

Band member Talon Lennon helped Justin off the field to a bench at the sideline. Friends initially thought Justin was having an asthma attack. Woods came to his aid.

Justin turned blue and passed out, Woods told the Palladium-Item ( ).

"I started doing CPR on the bench," Woods said. He paid no attention to the concerned audience of football fans who were watching as he worked to keep Justin alive.

Woods continued CPR until an ambulance arrived to rush Justin to Reid Hospital.

Justin eventually was transferred from Reid to Children's Medical Center of Dayton, Ohio, with two collapsed lungs. He underwent a long hospital and rehabilitation stay — "Three months and seven days," Justin notes — before finally coming home Dec. 20.

For the first time since Woods saved Justin's life, the two met Wednesday evening at Reid Hospital in the second floor lounge area of the outpatient center.

"Thank you," Justin said.

The two shook hands and then hugged.

"I'm glad to see you're doing great," Woods said.

The two exchanged stories of what happened that night, filling in the gaps in each other's knowledge.

Joining the discussion were Justin's grateful family, his father, Robert Murphy, and his father's fiancee, Holly Driskill.

The last thing Justin remembers is marching onto the field. He doesn't remember being helped off the field, talking briefly with Woods or passing out.

Justin said he dreamed that he was at school.

What Justin didn't realize was that he remained in a medically induced coma for three weeks while he had multiple surgeries to re-inflate his lungs.

Driskill said the double lung collapse is being blamed on blebs, which are air blisters in the lungs. When the blisters rupture, the lung can collapse. The cause of the blebs is unknown, but occur more often on the lungs of people who are tall and thin like Justin.

Although it is not his specialty, Woods said such a condition is rare, with very few such cases occurring each year in the United States.

Woods said that he has dealt with only one other lung collapse in his 23 years of sports medicine, and it was a single lung collapse, which can be handled more easily.

He added that if the dual lung collapse had come upon Justin at home alone, he might not have survived.

"I'm glad I was there," Woods said. "I think God works in interesting ways."

"I'm thankful that I'm still alive," Justin said.

When he woke up three weeks after the incident, Justin didn't know where he was or why he couldn't stand on his own.

"I couldn't believe this ever happened to me," he said. "Why me? Out of the whole country, why me?"

His father and Driskill asked the same question. They were on their way to the homecoming football game when they got the call that Justin had been taken to the hospital.

They didn't know why and it was nerve-racking waiting while doctors worked on Justin in a room out of their sight.

"It was terrible," Driskill said.

When doctors told Robert Murphy what had happened to his son, he too passed out.

Revived, he talked to Justin because his voice had a calming effect.

"It was the scariest night of my life," Robert Murphy said.

A nasty storm rolled into the area that night, canceling the rest of the homecoming football game. Justin's family drove to Dayton in the storm. Driskill remembers it was a miserable trip.

Word of Justin's health crisis spread quickly through the band family, Richmond Community Schools and the area. Co-workers from Driskill's job at Perfect Circle Credit Union and Robert Murphy's job at AWS pitched in. A Facebook page called Prayer Circle for Justin Murphy was created and quickly filled with well wishes.

"We had a lot of support and prayers, people calling to help," Driskill said. "While we were at the hospital, not even knowing if he was going to come back ... we felt it (the prayers). We really held onto that.

"We want to thank the community," she said.

Justin left Children's of Dayton at the end of October and went to Hook Rehabilitation Center in Indianapolis. Robert Murphy said the center usually works with adults but took Justin in as somewhat of an experiment that they now think will help them help others.

"He's a fighter," Robert Murphy said of his son. "He's different from other 15-year-olds, more mature."

Justin said that as a result of his crisis, he has some blind spots in his eyesight and has some trouble with coordination, especially in his hands.

His father, who works with people who have mental and physical challenges, said that Justin is rehabilitating at an above-average pace.

Justin came home to Richmond from Hook rehab on Dec. 20.

"He was our Christmas present," Driskill said.

It is good to have him back home with his sisters, Leanna Murphy and Ivy Murphy, who are both in the band and were present when Justin collapsed. He's also home with Driskill's children, Hannah, Haven and Hayden Driskill.

It has been a tough year for Justin, Leanna and Ivy. Their mother, Michelle Taylor Murphy, died July 29, just before Indiana State Fair Band Day. Justin and Leanna marched in the competition in her memory.

Justin said he can't wait to return to the band, even though his lung issues will keep him from playing baritone. He hopes to learn bass guitar from his father in order to perform a solo in Richmond's Indiana State Fair Band Day show.

Justin once dreamed of being a computer programmer for games, which he loves, but he has added a new goal to his future career list.

He wants to be a nurse, "because there were a lot of nurses that helped me out."

Robert Murphy and Driskill feel sure that Justin will be able to achieve whatever goal he chooses.

Justin is still participating in rehabilitation three times a week. He is beginning schooling at home, with the hope of returning to the classroom for Richmond's third trimester.

Right now, their focus is high school.

"We promised his mother before she passed that he would graduate high school," Driskill said. "It's a big promise to fulfill."


Information from: Palladium-Item,

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