Jerome Harrison making progress, with thanks to his wife Posted by Michael David Smith on November 26, 2012, 12:19 PM EST
Jerome Harrison found out he was in poor health last year when the Lions traded him to the Eagles, and the physical in Philadelphia revealed a brain tumor. Since then he’s also found out just what a wonderful wife he has.
Harrison went into surgery shortly after doctors found his brain tumor, and a year later his wife, Michelle, is still shaking her head at how difficult his recovery has been.
“There was literally complication after complication,” Michelle says in a lengthy profile of the Harrisons by Anwar S. Richardson of MLive.com. “He had a blood clot in his brain, they had to go back in and get the blood clot out. He had strokes. He had angioplasty. He had infections. He had Hydrocephalus. He had nasal spasms. There are these complications. The doctors were saying to prepare and make sure you have all of your finances in order. Make sure the life insurance is where it needs to be. Make sure your estate planning is all intact because if he makes it, you don’t know what he’ll be, and if he doesn’t make it, you need to be prepared for that.”
Jerome is still a long way from being able to move like he could as an NFL running back, but he’s walking again and living his life. Richardson’s profile goes into all the gory details, including the fact that Michelle, who was six months pregnant with their second child when the brain tumor was discovered, had to wipe Jerome every day after his surgery because he had lost control of his lower extremities.
“That is pure amazing,” Jerome said. “At the time, I was an independent brother, so if she supported me, so what? If she didn’t, so what? But to see somebody have your back like that? It is amazing. No matter the scenario, she is going to be there, whether you like it or don’t like it. My wife is going to be there. You learn how to appreciate it. She doesn’t know this, but there have been many a day that she has kept me going when I wanted to give up. That’s what can’t be expressed. You can’t put a dollar amount on that.”
It’s been a long road to recovery for Harrison, and it’s not over. He’s lucky to have a good wife by his side.
Detroit Lions' Jerome Harrison leans on 'Diamond' wife throughout recovery from brain tumor By Anwar S. Richardson on November 26, 2012 at 5:01 AM, updated November 26, 2012 at 1:19 PM
Jerome Harrison delicately walked toward the restaurant door as his wife parked their SUV.
His smile arrived long before his hand grabbed the entrance handle.
A few moments later, Michelle, his wife who he has been close with since they met at Kalamazoo Central High School, arrived beaming brighter than the sun behind her.
"This is my wife, Diamond," Jerome said.
"You can call me Michelle," she quickly replied.
Jerome's nickname for his wife is playful, but the veiled meaning is appropriate.
A diamond is one of the hardest natural substances on earth. It is harder than the majority of minerals on this planet. Even though diamonds can be broken, they still remain valuable.
Nothing better describes the woman who was informed her husband had been traded from the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles, but later learned he might die from a brain tumor.
She put her career on hold to spend every day in the hospital with her husband while six months pregnant with their second child. When medical personnel told her not to have high hopes for her husband's recovery, she had faith when most people had doubt. It was Michelle who fought her husband's depression when he didn't want to live. When Jerome did not have control of his lower extremities, Michelle is the one who patiently wiped him everyday.
"That is pure amazing," Jerome said. "At the time, I was an independent brother, so if she supported me, so what? If she didn't, so what? But to see somebody have your back like that? It is amazing. No matter the scenario, she is going to be there, whether you like it or don't like it. My wife is going to be there.
"You learn how to appreciate it. She doesn't know this, but there have been many a day that she has kept me going when I wanted to give up. That's what can't be expressed. You can't put a dollar amount on that."
THE DIAGNOSIS Harrison was a proud member of the Detroit Lions in 2011 when he got the call.
Detroit narrowly beat the trade deadline and shipped Harrison and an undisclosed 2013 draft pick to Philadelphia for running back Ronnie Brown. Harrison, a Kalamazoo native who entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2006, was torn, but not surprised. Lions running back Jahvid Best recently suffered a concussion in Detroit's loss to San Francisco, and the team wanted another running back.
The deal was contingent upon Harrison passing a physical in Philadelphia. It was there when doctors discovered something wrong.
"It was just a typical physical," Jerome said. "He put the little light in my eye and was like, 'Oh'. He was like, 'Jerome, how you feel?' I said I feel fine, but you're scaring me. What's wrong? He was like, 'Do you have time for a CAT scan?' I said, 'I don't have anywhere else to be.' Man, we did the CAT scan, and he put a rush on it or something, and said, 'Yeah, it's just as I thought.'
"The first thing I said was, 'Am I going to die?' He started laughing and said I had some swelling behind my eye. I'm thinking the only thing behind my eye is my brain. He showed me the picture of the CAT scan. He was like, 'Do you see that big white thing?' That's not supposed to be there."
What Jerome saw was a tumor in his brain.
Doctors wanted to perform surgery immediately, but Jerome did not want it done in Philadelphia. Eagles coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman spoke with Jerome several times throughout the day, and offered to fly Jerome's family to Philadelphia, a gesture that was politely declined.
After signing a medical release with the airline, which cleared them of any liability if he died on the plane, Jerome flew back home to Michelle in Detroit. Since the Eagles were on a bye week, Michelle knew something was wrong, but Jerome instead told her he had a "funny" story to share over dinner.
Jerome delivered the news that evening during their weekly Friday date night, this time at Roast Detroit, one of their favorite restaurants.
"We get to dinner, I sit down, literally (the waitress) takes the drink order and I say, 'What is it that you have to tell me?''' Michelle said. "He tells me it's just something in my head they got to pop out. They'll pop it out and we'll be good to go. We'll have the rest of the season to relax and then back at it. I ask what is it that they have to pop out of your head. He says, 'Just this little thing in the back they have to pop out.'
"I said, 'Hold on J.C. What did they say exactly?' That's when he told me. That's when I remember my mouth filling so full of spit and I didn't eat anything. The food came out and I just wanted to go home. You have a brain tumor?"
They eventually went home, after Jerome finished his meal.
"He ate mine, too," Michelle said.
The football player was not worried.
THE SURGERY Jerome had a doctor's appointment scheduled the following morning. He did his best to sneak out of the house and go by himself, but Michelle heard him moving around. She threw on her clothes and rode with him to the doctor's office.
"Long story short, I was there with him at the doctor's appointment," Michelle said. "He didn't even tell me what the issue was. We pull up and it's a cancer institute. 'What's happening here, J.C.? What are you not telling me?' They didn't know if it was benign or malignant. They didn't know anything. He didn't give me all this. He just told me it was this small mass, this thing that had to be pulled out.
"Finally he meets with the doctor and I ask him to tell me what's going on. That's when they told me how serious it was."
Jerome was facing a life or death situation. He needed surgery immediately to make sure the tumor was not cancerous. If doctors had not discovered the growth on his brain, he could have died on the football field with one strong hit.
He asked the doctor to spend some time with his daughter before the surgery. It was 10 a.m., and he was allowed to leave as long as he returned by 1 p.m.
Jerome returned at 7 p.m.
"It's my head you're going to mess up," Jerome said. "I'm not on your time. Not one part of me was nervous. You are getting ready to drill into my head. I'm not on your time no matter what you say."
The surgery was slated to last around three hours.
While doctors eventually discovered the tumor was not cancerous, the surgery lasted 12 hours after a specialist had to be called in.
"The complication came from the placement of the tumor and the fact that all of his veins were engulfed in the tumor," Michelle said. "They had grown through the middle of the tumor and around the tumor. A lot of brain tumors can be taken out. They just fold it up, pull it out. His couldn't be folded up and pulled out because all his veins ran through it.
"It was like an origami game where they had to cut small pieces, pull out pieces; small pieces, pull out pieces. Veins are like hairs. If you touch it, you affect some part of the body. If you cut it, it's dead. Because of the tumor being on his brain stem, it further complicated pulling it out."
Instead of being in the hospital for three to five days, it was five months.
Harrison was a patient at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital for two months before being transferred to the University of Michigan's in-patient rehab services.
At first, Harrison couldn't walk or talk. He couldn't blink, so his eyelids were taped shut to prevent his eyes from drying out.
"They pretty much told us after the surgery was over, and we went into the recovery room, he may or may not wake up," Michelle said. "It may take him one hour. It may take him one minute. It may take him a year. We don't know, so don't go in with expectations. So we walked in like we might be sitting here with this vegetable for who knows how long. Then he woke up in six minutes."
"I'm a freak of nature like that," Jerome said with laughter. "I wasn't going to stay asleep. I felt like I had been asleep long enough."
Jerome did not remember much about his hospital stay at first. His memory started improving a few months ago, and he recently shared one particular recollection with his wife.
"He often was taken down to the basement floor of the hospital," Michelle said. "There was literally complication after complication. He had a blood clot in his brain, they had to go back in and get the blood clot out. He had strokes. He had angioplasty. He had infections. He had Hydrocephalus. He had nasal spasms. There are these complications. The doctors were saying to prepare and make sure you have all of your finances in order. Make sure the life insurance is where it needs to be. Make sure your estate planning is all intact because if he makes it, you don't know what he'll be, and if he doesn't make it, you need to be prepared for that.
"Because of those complications, he was having MRI and CAT scans every three hours. It was right next to the (hospital's incinerator for medical waste. Jerome thought it was a crematorium). He told me this three months ago because he's remembering stuff. He would blink the whole time and say I'm not dead."
Jerome burst into laughter.
"Please don't throw me in that hot box," he said. "You could see the flames and smell the bodies being burnt. Please don't throw me in there."
THE REHAB Jerome was discharged from Henry Ford as a quadriplegic with paralyzed vocal cords. He had a tracheostomy and a feeding tube.
"There was a time he couldn't speak," Michelle said. "Then when he did get the information out of his mouth, we would work on his muscles and his lips so he would at least try to mouth words to people. We would argue. We went through this stage when he was just a grumpy mean man who was mad at everything at everybody."
Jerome admits he was trying to get Michelle so angry that she would eventually leave him. He didn't want her to see him in this condition. He went from being independent to dependent.
Less than a year ago, Jerome was playing in the NFL. Now he was bed ridden.
He wanted her to leave so he could die in peace.
"At that time, I did (want to die)," Jerome said. "I just didn't want her to expect me to be there and I wasn't. Even though I knew I was fighting a good fight, I didn't want my wife to expect me to be there."
Jerome's pain is why he sometimes hurt the people he loved so much.
"It would be 2 a.m., and I slept in the chair next to his bed, and he would say, 'Are you really that dumb to sleep in this chair every night next to a dead man?' I would tell him to go back to sleep. Then I would roll over and go back to sleep," Michelle said.
"It was like he was fighting the love that was around him. He had family members who were there who wanted to give him love and give him support. He would look around and say, 'Why are ya'll happy? Why are ya'll even here?'"
Diamond never left.
Michelle's mother, Sherita Ruffin, eventually moved in to take care of her granddaughter, Giselle. She also took care of the home so Michelle could take care of her husband.
Jerome was discharged from the University of Michigan's medical facilities after three months. He improved physically, but once he allowed family members to love him, Jerome also improved emotionally.
"I used to always pray to God for a miracle," Jerome said. "He did give it to me, but it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to just get up and play with the kids. I wanted to be normal. But it also allowed my mother-in-law to come help with the kids. That allowed my wife to stay with me. You pray for things, but personally, you don't always know what you're praying about. I was praying for a miracle because I hated this. I couldn't provide for myself. I couldn't care for myself. I hated it.
"I'm independent. I have never depended on a woman to help me with anything at all. J.C. stands on his own two feet. J.C. pays his own bills. J.C. provides for J.C. But nobody was helping J.C. out. Then when this whole thing happened, my mother-in-law was 10 toes down. She was in that thing. People laugh, but my mother-in-law was there, and if I needed help walking somewhere, she was right there. When we were looking at houses, she was right there. She would let me use her shoulder to hold onto while my wife walked in and out the house, front and back, to check it out. My mother-in-law was huge. I was praying for something else, but this is what God gave me. At the time, you want to help yourself. Now that I look back at it, that's what God gave me."
LIFE WITHOUT FOOTBALL Jerome is about 90 percent recovered from his surgery.
He was discharged from the hospital seven months ahead of where doctors projected he would be. The family currently lives outside of the Detroit area, but prefer to keep their exact location private to focus on Jerome's rehabilitation.
Jerome, 29, currently is self-sufficient. He partakes in sports rehabilitation and works out with a personal trainer weekly to improve his health. Jerome does not have perfect balance, but he is improving daily.
"It's crazy because they gave him up to seven years to be able to eat again," Michelle said.
Jerome scoffed at that prognosis.
"Nobody else's expectations really matter," Jerome said. "If you say I got a couple of days, I'm going to stay for a couple of weeks. I can't let somebody else place parameters on me."
Jerome also spends his time with daughter Giselle, who can't sleep unless her father snuggles in the bed with her, and Jerome Harrison III, who will turn 1 in February.
As Jerome's health continues to improve, he sometimes thinks about playing football again. He still is the guy who broke Jim Brown's single-game rushing record for a Cleveland Browns running back with 286 yards and three touchdowns in 2009.
In addition, Jerome still is under contract with the Detroit Lions, but currently appears on the team's Reserve/Non-Football Illness list. His contract expires in March.
"I'm very okay (with not playing football again)," Harrison said. "But can I? I'm stubborn."
Football seems very unlikely considering his current medical condition.
However, Jerome is used to be doubted.
"I also heard I would die," Jerome said. "I also heard I wouldn't talk again. I also heard I wouldn't walk again."
Jerome grabbed his wife by the shoulder and hugged her as the couple walked out the restaurant.
There is a reason why he was smiling.
Jerome may have lost many things.
But Jerome remains rich because of his Diamond.
"Most women would have left," Jerome said. "She stayed. She's my best friend."
_________________ Go Lions!!!
Joe Fauria, MVP!
November 26th, 2012, 3:30 pm
Joined: December 31st, 2004, 9:55 am Posts: 11787
Re: Jerome Harrison
Brain tumor diagnosis was ultimate challenge for former Eagle Jerome Harrison By Kevin Noonan | CBSSports.com November 21, 2012 4:52 pm ET
Running back Jerome Harrison was about to join the Philadelphia Eagles for the second time in 2011 and his once and future teammates were glad to have the popular player back with them. Then they got some news that stunned them: the trade with Detroit was negated because doctors discovered that Harrison had a brain tumor.
Running back LeSean McCoy spoke for the team when he said, “Something like this definitely puts things in perspective. Jerome is a great guy and a great teammate and we're all praying for him.”
Harrison was the second part of the Eagles' one-two punch at running back in 2010, when he was the primary backup to McCoy and finished the season with 239 yards on 40 carries, an average of 6.0 yards per attempt.
Harrison's finest moment with the Eagles came in Week 9, a month after he was acquired in a trade with Cleveland that sent running back Mike Bell to the Browns. Harrison was inactive for his first two games with the Eagles and had just a couple of carries the next week against Indianapolis.
The following week, however, he became a major part of the game plan as he carried the ball 11 times for 109 yards -- including a 50-yard touchdown run that broke the game open -- in a 59-28 victory over Washington. Harrison didn't play much the rest of the season until the final game against Dallas, when Eagles coach Andy Reid rested most of his starters for the playoffs and Harrison got 21 carries and gained 99 yards.
Harrison wanted more playing time and signed with the Lions as a free agent after that season, but then Detroit sent him back to the Eagles for running back Ronnie Brown.
However, before that deal could be finalized Harrison had to take a physical and that's when the tumor was discovered.