A Mississippi prep football player has died two days after he reported feeling unwell during his team’s season opener and then suffered a seizure in a hospital emergency room.
As covered extensively by the Clarion-Ledger, Jackson Prep offensive lineman Walker Wilbanks left the second half of his team’s season opener against Oxford after walking to the sideline and telling athletic trainers that he felt sick. He was then “immediately” transported to the closest Jackson hospital — Baptist Memorial — but suffered a bout of vomiting and cramping and then collapsed into a seizure shortly after arriving in the emergency room. Those reactions led to brain swelling, and on Monday the teen’s family notified officials that Wilbanks had passed away at University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he had been transported after it was believed that his swelling had improved on Saturday.
It has yet to be determined whether the illness that led to Wilbanks’ death was caused by physical contact, dehydration or some other factor. It could still be some time before more conclusive autopsy results are released. In the meantime, scrutiny has been placed on Jackson Prep’s medical staff, which chose not to consult with the emergency medical technicians who were on hand at the game; Wilbanks was transported to hospital in his parents’ personal vehicle rather than an ambulance. Jackson Prep has defended the decision to forego analysis from the EMT crew at the stadium because Wilbanks was first assessed by a doctor on the sideline who serves as part of the school’s medical team.
“He was attended not by an EMT, but by a doctor,” Jackson Prep Head of School Jason Walton told the Clarion-Ledger.
Jackson Prep released an official statement shortly after being notified of Wilbanks’ passing.
“Since our home football game against Oxford High School, the singular focus of this community has been prayer. We have been on our knees in prayer individually, in prayer circles, at houses of worship and here on campus,” Walton wrote. “We have been praying fervently for a miracle that the health and well-being of our beloved friend and student, Walker, would be restored.
“Today, our prayers continue to be with David, Shelia and Landon and the rest oft he extended Wilbanks family, as well as Walker’s friends here at Prep and beyond.”
Wilbanks’ passing followed a weekend of hope and community outreach aimed at offering spiritual support for the offensive tackle and his family. Jackson Prep held a prayer vigil for Wilbanks at the school’s football field on Sunday and area college coaches — including Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Mississippi State’s Dan Millen — offered prayers and support via social media.
Now Jackson Prep and the larger Jackson football community will have to look to heal, however long that may take.