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Recovery process slow, continuing for Ringling football coach

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An old adage says, “Time heals all wounds.” While the axiom may have a more emotional meaning, for Ringling football coach Rick Gandy, it’s been time which has helped him recover from a serious neck injury suffered last month.

Gandy, who was the 2003 All-Area Football Team’s Coach of the Year after guiding his Blue Devils to an undefeated season and the Class A state title, is slowing recovering from his injury at Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center in Oklahoma City.

“He’s sitting up in the chair right now (Wednesday afternoon),” Gandy’s wife, Phyllis, said. “He’s still on the mend. We’re starting some therapy. He’s recovering from pneumonia. That’s been a big setback. He’s been having some tingling sensation all over his body. He’s moving his feet, and he’s moving his fingers some.”

Last month, Gandy was riding on his horse on his ranch, when the horse suddenly stopped, throwing the Coaches Hall of Fame inductee over the horse and onto the ground — landing on his neck. He spent the next three weeks at OU MEDICAL CENTER being treated for the injury — even having surgery.

“When we first got here (to OU MEDICAL CENTER), they went in and stabilized his neck,” Phyllis said. “His problem is a spinal cord injury. It’s swollen and bruised, not severed. That’s why it’s been such a wait-and-see game for us is to see how much of the swelling goes down. They (the doctors) told us it’s now in God’s hands as far as the swelling and the bruising going down. It can continue to go down for a long time. Every time that he has any movement at all, we keep thinking that more of the swelling has gone down.”

For the last two weeks, Gandy has been at the rehab center, and continues to show progress — albeit slow.

“They are gradually Weaning him off the Ventilator the last few days,” Phyllis said. “Since we’ve been in the Integris Rehab Center, we’ve been at a standstill on that — partially I think because of the pneumonia that he developed. But the last few days, they’ve been able to make progress with him. They weaned him a little bit (Tuesday) and a little bit more (Wednesday).”

In fact, the veteran coach, although not able to speak yet due to his time on the ventilator, is still having a say in what he needs to do to help in the recovery progress.

“(Tuesday) and (Wednesday), he’s ready to go on with the game plan,” Phyllis said. “He’s asking the doctors what his prognosis is, and what he needs to do. The respiratory therapist came in and was working with him. He can’t speak because of the ventilator, but we’re getting real good at reading lips. He told her, ‘I like short, quality workouts.’ That’s what he told her (Wednesday). She said she would talk to the doctor about it. They have rescheduled his respiratory program so that his treatment is about four hours apart instead of six hours apart — and they’re not as long. As of (Tuesday) and (Wednesday), he wants to be part of the recovery program.”

While the 2005 football season is still several months off — and quite distant from Gandy’s mind — the players, community and area are letting him know that he is on their minds.

“He hasn’t really started thinking about (football) yet,” Phyllis said. “But it’s been unbelievable the cards, the calls and the letters. He’s gotten several letters from his kids (football players) that are telling how hard they’re working in the weight room getting ready for next football season. That’s been a real inspiration for us. We just appreciate the prayers and the concerns from everybody down there. That’s what has gotten us this far.”

While the progress has been slower that desired, the Gandys just hope progress continues.

“We really haven’t gone backwards a whole lot, but sometimes he’s stood still — and not making progress that he and I would like,” she said. “I don’t think the doctors have ever been disappointed. But when we have a day like (Tuesday) and (Wednesday), we’re elated.”

David Seeley, 221-6527

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