CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One football game played a major role in deciding a Providence High School sophomore’s quality of life.
It was a tackle that changed John Balas’ life forever and almost left him paralyzed.
The teamwork of the coaches and doctors allowed him to not only walk again, but cherish every one of his steps.
“I did not walk for two days,” said Balas.
In September 2019, Balas was a standout linebacker for the Providence Panthers and was making a tackle against a running back from West Mecklenburg High School.
“I went in and went for it and I dove. I don’t normally do that,” Balas said.
After the hit, Balas was on the ground, stunned, thinking it was just a stinger, but he quickly realized it was much more.
“Like, my back hurts. This arm immediately went numb,” Balas said.
Balas said he asked his trainer to pick him up but it was that critical moment the trainer made the decision that might have saved his life.
“If someone goes down, what do you do? Those are things we go through every day, not only with our kids, but with our staff, as well,” said head coach Wes Ward.
The 16-year-old was taken to Levine Children’s Hospital, and after multiple tests, the doctors said he had a broken neck, an unstable spine with three fractured vertebrae and a shredded ligament in his neck.
The surgery required immediate spinal fusion surgery, which went well.
“I am really happy. I wake up every day, I can walk and run and play sports,” said Balas.
Balas said he is hoping to continue playing sports and plans to play outfield for the Providence Panthers baseball team this season.
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