NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Therapy finished for the afternoon, Darrell Rogers was wheeled into the visitor’s lounge on his hospital floor. He greeted his dad with a wide smile and proceeded to rise from his wheelchair.
The elder Darrell Rogers lent him a hand, just to be sure.
“He can walk on his own,” Darrell Sr. said. “But you’ve got to be there to spot him and make sure he doesn’t fall.”
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the 16-year-old Matawan High School basketball standout. In May, during a club-team practice, Rogers suffered sudden cardiac arrest. He collapsed and stopped breathing, was revived by two coaches and helicoptered to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where the prognosis was grim.
“They were saying he could possibly be blind, possibly never walk again, possibly never talk,” Darrell Sr. said. “In the beginning he couldn’t communicate with us at all. That lasted a good month. It was terrible.”
Darrell Jr. beat the odds. He’s scheduled to go home Wednesday, and a community will be waiting. They’ve pitched in from all angles — food, money, moral support. A big fundraiser featuring WFAN talk-radio host and former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiaison takes place Tuesday in Aberdeen, with another event on tap for Aug. 25.
“I’m grateful for what everybody’s done for us,” Darrell’s dad said. “Even for the prayers, because they’re helping.”
Darrell is a point guard. In the parlance of the position, there have been many assists during his recovery. But it’s a winding road.
“Even though we’re happy with his progress, this is a long-term thing,” Matawan basketball coach John Giraldo said. “Darrell comes from a very good family. They need all the support they can get, especially financially. Their bills are going to pile up.”
For now, there are small victories.
“I’m doing better,” Darrell said, wearing a black “Huskies” T-shirt from his high school.
Like a long-range jumper that hit the rim and bounced in, this easily could have gone the other way.