Josh Fugate was supposed to have his graduation open house Saturday. Instead, the Hamilton Southeastern senior, after suffering his second major injury in a matter of months, was in a South Bend hospital in intensive care.
Fugate, who played basketball at Hamilton Southeastern, suffered a serious neck injury Wednesday in a swimming accident. Fugate’s C5 vertebrae fractured, resulting in a severe spinal cord injury and subsequent paralysis from the chest down.
“Josh keeps telling everybody that he is going to walk again,” his father, Dan Fugate, said Sunday by phone. “The biggest thing is that we still have Josh. He will find his new normal and we will figure out a way to make his life as good as it was before. He’s a fighter. We truly believe he will beat this. He may not beat it all the way, but he will fight.”
HSE basketball coach Brian Satterfield and Fugate’s teammates figured he had been through the worst already. At a practice on Jan. 10, Fugate was injured during a block-out drill in practice. He and a teammate collided and the teammate fell on top of him. Fugate’s head hit the ground, causing his T11 vertebrae to fracture.
Fugate’s high school basketball career was over in that moment, but he did return to take the court on Senior Night against Brownsburg. Satterfield called Brownsburg coach Steve Lynch to ask if Fugate could take the court and score the opening basket of the game.
In the past two months, Fugate had made considerable progress. He had even been cleared to play basketball again and returned to HSE to participate in a workout.
“He wasn’t in great shape, but he got out there and played a little bit,” Satterfield said. “We thought he was doing great. Now he has a long road to recovery. We’re going to pray for him every day.”
Satterfield said Fugate, who was planning to attend Indiana University, was one of the Royals’ vocal leaders. He played in 13 games in his senior season before his injury, averaging 1.7 points per game. But his impact went beyond the numbers.
“Even with him only playing half the season, he tied for the team lead in charges taken,” Satterfield said. “He knew he had to do some of that stuff to get on the floor. He was a great shooter, but also a good student. He was missed from our team because of his leadership and positive energy he would bring to practice and games every day.”
Dan Fugate said his son his son underwent a seven-hour surgery at Memorial Hospital of South Bend. He will be in the ICU for at least a few more days before the family decides on what comes next.
“If he doesn’t improve, he will be a quadriplegic,” Dan Fugate said. “He can raise his arms to his shoulders, but he doesn’t have motor skills in his hands. He can cross his arms and point to things and he’s getting more control over his arms. It’s a big journey for him.”
Dan Fugate credited the doctors at the South Bend hospital for their work. Family and friends – as well as the basketball community – have rallied around the Fugates. A GoFundMe page had raised more than $42,000 as of Sunday afternoon.
“The outreach from near and far has been unbelievable,” Dan Fugate said. “Not just financially, but people reaching out to ask what they can do. We are fortunate. It is nice to have the community that we do. Tell everybody that Josh will be OK.”