Michael and Tara Hill have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving - love and support from their community and friends and the health of their son Phillip.
"Between the community and our friends, you can't imagine all the people who have helped us," Mrs. Hill said.
The Hills needed support after Phillip, a sophomore at Greenbrier High School, collapsed during a junior varsity football game Sept. 18.
Phillip, who complained of severe headaches during the game, became sick and passed out. He was transported to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he spent several weeks in critical condition.
"You see it happen to other people, you see it in the paper, but you don't think it could ever be you child," Mr. Hill said.
The head injury that Phillip received in one or more hits during the game caused bleeding on his brain and swelling that had to be relieved with surgery, his parents said.
After he got out of MCG, Phillip attended rehabilitation at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. He attended seven classes a day including speech, occupation and physical therapy and cognitive teaching. He came home with his mother every weekend.
Mrs. Hill brought her son home for good Saturday. Phillip, eager to get back into a normal routine, braved a half-day of school Monday.
"Rehab was not that bad," said the 15-year-old, who wants to become an engineer. "I was tired of sitting around the house."
Phillip tried to keep up with his studies while out of school through tutors at the Atlanta center and a private tutor provided by the Columbia County school system.
Phillip Hill (center) walks to class on his first day back in school with friends Josh Davis (left) and Chaz Davis.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
His principal, Sandra Carraway, met with him Monday morning, asking him to speak up for anything he needs while easing back into school.
"He's the only kid I know that is glad to be back at school," Carraway said with a laugh.
The Hills - including Phillip's siblings, Hannah, 12, and Christian, 8 - faced a dark time after Phillip's accident. In 1999 the family had moved to Evans, which they now consider home, and were surprised by the outpouring of support from the entire CSRA and the Greenbrier family, Mrs. Hill said.
Friends, family, neighbors and even strangers sent food and letters of encouragement, and some even did yard work.
"We were so bathed with love and support," Mrs. Hill said. "We're just real blessed. We have a lot to be thankful for, not only Phillip being home, but just the fact that we live here, that we live close to MCG, and we have the friends and neighbors and the community we have behind us. I think everybody is so lucky to live here. It's a great place.
"We have so many reasons to thankful, and definitely Phillip is the first thing to be thankful for. I can't imagine having to have gone through this anywhere else. I don't think any other community could have come up to the challenge Evans did."
Now, the family is getting back to normal with Phillip home and healthy for the holidays.
"It is wonderful to have him back," Mrs. Hill said. "The timing could not have been more appropriate."
Doctors expect Phillip to make a full recovery within the next year, but he cannot play contact sports for that time. He was encouraged by the physical therapist not to consider football again, Mr. Hill said.
"Even though it is a long shot to ever happen again, it was a long shot to happen the first time," he said. "But before we dictate (whether he plays again), we are trying to let him make his own decisions to in a way. So he is getting some other ideas about doing some stuff, and other people have made some comments about some other things he may could get into athletically that wouldn't involve that (contact)."
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