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Kingman football star recovers from brain hemorrhage

Derek Curran (right) lies in a hospital bed next to his mother Jan. Derek suffered a brain hemmorage after being hit during a football game on October 26. He is expected to make a full recovery. (Photo by Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- A Kingman High School football player is thankful to be alive this Thanksgiving.

On October 26, 17-year-old Derek Curran was playing in a game at Bradshaw Mountain when he was hit. He said that Kingman's athletic trainer thought she noticed something wasn't quite right.

"She was talking to me and I said ‘No, no, I'm fine," Curran said. "I put my mouthpiece in and went to go back out onto the field and started having seizures right there."

Curran said that he doesn't remember the hit. He said the hit that caused the damage could have actually happened in practice in the days before the game, but the in-game hit then brought on the seizure.

A paramedic worked on him on the field. He was then airlifted to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where it was determined that trauma from the hit had caused his brain to hemorrhage and shear -- that's a severe brain injury that can result in death.

He was in critical condition.

"The first week that I was in the intensive care unit, I was in an induced coma," Curran said.

Doctors said they did that to relieve the pressure on his brain. They said that Curran is lucky because his brain had stopped bleeding and started to heal on its own.

Doctors said Curran has now made a remarkable recovery, with no paralysis. He faces therapy, but will be going home in a few days.

Curran knows he's lucky to be alive.

"I could have been gone within five or ten minutes of having that seizure," he said. "I'm very thankful that there was a paramedic that happened to be there at the game, and all of my sports trainers were all able to get taken care of and ready to go for the medical hospital."

With the game in Prescott Valley, it was the athletic trainer who called Derek's mom, who was back home in Kingman.

Jan Curran said she immediately drove to Phoenix to be with her son.

With her son now on the road to recovery, Curran said Thursday will be a very special Thanksgiving for her entire family.

"The whole perspective of being thankful has entirely changed for me," said Jan. "I've had people say to me ‘Aren't you going to miss that you're not going to have Thanksgiving dinner this year?' I say I can eat McDonalds. I really could care less. I am so glad that he's here. I'm so glad that he's recovering so quickly and that he'll probably be able to get back to his life as he knew it before."

Derek said his story should be an example to other high school football players. He said if any athlete is feeling signs of a concussion or head injury, speak up. As Curran knows, there's no point trying to hide it from anyone. After all, it could cost you your life.

Derek's dream of playing college football is over. Doctors have instructed him not to play football again.

But that won't stop him from playing sports.

Derek says he'll play for Kingman High's baseball team as soon as he gets back home.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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