Steph Okenge has always dreamed of playing professional basketball.
As an elite high school player in Ottawa, he managed to take that step by moving to Nebraska on a college scholarship.
But last month, the 19-year-old Ottawan’s dreams were shattered forever. After driving off the road, the car he was in crashed into a concrete culvert.
The impact shattered six of his vertebrae, preventing him from moving his whole body, from feet to shoulders, explained his older brother Ben, in an interview on the show. CBC Radio, Ottawa Morninglast week.
Today, the Okenge family must live with this terrible accident, while trying to find a way to cover Steph’s medical expenses when the insurance he took out with his university ends.
Honestly, he took it way better than I expected. He’s a really positive person and it really shines through.said Ben Okenge.
What he is going through is concrete and it is really not pleasant. For him, I’m not trying to sugarcoat things. But at the same time, we’re just glad he’s still alive.
In very poor condition
The accident happened on October 23, the student welcome weekend at York University, his brother said.
Steph and his teammates had been up for almost a full day, with the weekend filled with activities, basketball and celebrations.
He was sitting in the front passenger seat of his teammate’s car when his friend fell asleep at the wheel. The car veered off the highway, hit a sign and then collided with a culvert, Ben Okenge said.
When Steph Okenge arrived at the hospital, he was
in very poor condition he continued.
Her breathing was fully assisted by a ventilator. He couldn’t breathe on his own. So it was really, really scary to see him like that.
The resulting damage to his spinal cord was so severe, he said, that doctors believe it is unlikely Steph Okenge will ever regain the feeling or ability to move his body, from his shoulders at his feet.
He really started realizing it just a week ago. And honestly, he’s doing remarkably well under the circumstances.explained Ben Okenge.
We’re talking about a 19-year-old who wanted to be a professional basketball player and is told he’ll probably never move again. So obviously it’s a lot for him.
Her insurance is about to run out
The hope, Ben Okenge continued, is that his younger brother can eventually leave the intensive care unit in Nebraska, where he has been receiving treatment since the accident, and continue his recovery in Canada.
Since he still can’t breathe on his own, his family will likely have to charter a medical plane
ridiculously expensive to bring him back, commented Ben Okenge.
With her college insurance policy only up to $500,000, her family started an online fundraiser. As of Friday, they had raised over $118,000 – a significant amount, but still below the $400,000 goal.
Added to this financial burden is the emotional burden. The Okenge family do what they can to take care of each other. Ben Okenge says he feels guilty for going about his daily life, while his younger brother is paralyzed in a bed in intensive care.
There are days when it’s really hard just to get out of bedhe confided.
We say we’re all on Steph’s team right now… But it sure isn’t easy. There have been many tears and not much sleep. It’s been horrible the last few weeks.
With information from CBC News
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