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Surviving Brain Injury Only the Beginning for this Athlete

“We were very excited about the game,” says Staci Abercrombie.  

Derek Abercrombie adds, “It was like any normal Saturday.”

September 29th, 2018.  College football is in full swing.  That day Derek and Staci Abercrombie drove from their home in Atlanta to Nashville to cheer on their son Christion, a linebacker for Tennessee State. TSU faced in-town rival, Vanderbilt; a game that would permanently change Christion’s life.

Derek says, “When the game started, he was excited.  I seen him bouncing around.”

“It was very crowded,” Staci recalls.  “It was hot.  We were just excited and then it changed.”  

Christion was a highly touted prospect out of Atlanta’s West Lake High School.  He received nearly 30 division one scholarship offers.  His dream was to play in the NFL.

Derek says, “He was a pretty big kid and I've been around football a while to know-the NFL caliber. So yeah, I had those thoughts in my head that he could make it.”

“During the game he was making plays, he looked like he's kind of sluggish today,” says Derek.  “He's out there, he's playing, but he's just not looking his normal speed.”

During the first half, Christion made five hard-hitting tackles.

“I found out something was wrong after half time,” says Staci.  “And I looked in the area where the defensive players were located and I did not see Christion. At that time, I began to kind of panic a little bit.”

The Abercrombies learned that Christion had collapsed and was rushed to Vanderbilt hospital.

Staci says, “When the nurse came in and she said that he was very ill and I needed to sign the consent forms because he's had a head injury, I was very puzzled and confused and I began to question her, you know, ‘How did it happen?’ And she didn't have any answers other than ‘we need to get him to surgery.’

“It was kinda something that we thought we'll never hear,” says Derek.

Christion had suffered a traumatic brain injury and required a craniotomy:  a removal of a piece of skull to relieve pressure on his brain.  The Abercrombies met with the surgeon.  

“He's telling us, you know, he may not wake up and he's giving us the medical terminology of what occurred to Christion," says Staci.  “And I remember, you know, we cried and I kind of fell on the floor a little bit.”

The operation was successful, but Christion was still in a coma.

Staci says, “And we was like, okay, that's enough. It's time to pray. You know, we got to give it to God. We have to surrender. There is nothing that we can do that can change him. And at that moment, it just changed our entire perspective.”

Derek adds, “Our prayer was, you know, ‘Jesus get us through. You know, give him life and, we were saying whatever that we can say that would give him any help through prayer.”

Derek and Staci sent out an urgent message for friends and family to pray and they were amazed by the response.

“There were hundreds of people in the waiting area; couldn't even fit in the chapel praying,” says Staci.  “And that was just a moment for me to say, it's not me. It's not about me. It's about God and what He can do.”

After nearly three long weeks, Christion awoke from his coma.

“And I heard him kind of grunt,” says Derek, “so I looked at him in the face and he was looking at me and I asked him, I said, ‘Can you hear me? Can you talk?’ And he looked at me and he kind of whispered ‘yes.’”

Staci says Christion’s recovery is nothing short of miraculous.

“Oh, it was totally all a miracle,” remarked Staci.  “From the surgeon stating it himself. He said, ‘It's nothing that I did. There was nothing that I could do to change him. I did not expect to see you all in 24 hours. I did not think he would make it overnight.’ So it was all God.’”

Christion was transferred to an Atlanta rehab facility to learn to walk again.

Christion says, “It was pretty challenging, but I worked through it. And I was tired some days, but I worked through it.  It means a lot. I'm very happy and blessed. I couldn't do this without the man above. It brings chills to my body.  And I can say I am closer to God. I love going to church now. I just love, I love praying.”

In May of 2021, Christion graduated from Tennessee State with an interdisciplinary studies degree.  Today he’s bringing awareness to traumatic brain injuries through the Christion Abercrombie Foundation.  Christion says he’s thankful for praying parents.

“I appreciate them and I just want to thank them for their support and prayers,” says Christion. “Without them, I don't know where I'd be. It could have been a different outcome to this, but I appreciate them so much.”

His parents credit his recovery to the power of prayer.

Staci says, “While we're thinking that God has prepared him to be this um overall number one draft pick in the NFL, that may not have been the plan all along. He was preparing him for this part of his life.  When we wake up right now, I feel like every day I hit the lottery,” says Derek. “You know? that's how happy I feel as far as how God has blessed us.”

Staci says, “My perspective on life has changed. My faith has been built stronger.  I just feel as though, you know, without prayer, nothing is possible.”


 

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