By: Will Burchfield
While Jim Harbaugh decried Purdue’s medical standards in the wake of Wilton Speight’s back injury last month, Speight’s father painted an grimmer picture of the episode this week.
“What an absolute train wreck,” Bobby Speight told the Detroit News.
Speight fractured three back vertebrae in Michigan’s win at Purdue Sept. 23 and hasn’t played since.
Bobby Speight said stadium police escorted he and his wife Martha from their seats to the Michigan locker room after Speight was helped off the field, but they were initially locked out:
“The police took us down but were unable to open the door. Someone who appeared to be a member of the food staff realized what was going on and let us in. When that door opened, even in high school I had never been in a visiting locker room that bad. It was dark, dingy, dirty.”
Because there was no X-ray machine in the stadium, Speight had to be transported to the Purdue University Student Health Center. But instead of an ambulance, Purdue provided a van, according to the News:
“Wilton sat in the front seat of a van provided by Purdue and driven by a student. The Speights, two medical trainers, a doctor and Thai Trinh, an orthopedic sports medicine fellow at Michigan, piled into a van to be transported to the student health clinic, about two blocks from the stadium.”
“We take off with no escort,” Bobby Speight said. “We can’t get through because there are barricades up and (the van driver is) directing people to move them.”
When they finally got to the health center, with Speight still in cleats and partially in uniform, Bobby Speight said they were taken to the “very dimly-lit” basement. Michigan doctors requested several X-rays, but more problems ensued:
“There was a short delay because of issues putting the X-ray requests in the computer system. The technician was able to get the pictures, but transmission to a satellite facility failed, making it impossible for the Michigan doctors to examine the X-rays on a high-resolution screen. They thought they could miss diagnosing even the smallest of fractures on a lower-resolution version.”
At that point, Michigan doctors asked that Speight be transported to a local hospital, but Bobby Speight told the News that Purdue officials didn’t know which hospital to recommend. When a hospital was eventually chosen, a member of the Michigan medical staff requested an EMS transport, but a volunteer rescue team was the only option.
Bobby Speight said they waited “20 minutes” for the rescue team to arrive:
“At that point, Wilton says he has tingling in his legs and is in substantial pain. The EMT riding in the back of the ambulance asks us if we need an IV or vital monitoring and Trinh replied, ‘No, but we need him stable and immobile. This is a back injury.’ We stop at a light, and the Michigan doctor asks how long is it going to take, and (the EMT) said 30 to 45 minutes on game day.
“Our doctor asked him, ‘Couldn’t we please turn on the siren and make better time?’ And (the rescue squad member) said, ‘Don’t you get smart with me. You said this is a non-vital trip.’ Our doctor said, ‘I don’t care what I told you, this boy has tingling in his legs. Turn the siren on and go.’
“I about wanted to blow a gasket on this guy.”
After Speight received a CT scan at the local hospital, the Michigan doctors asked for a police escort back to the stadium. They were told that wasn’t available until the game ended. Purdue ultimately provided transportation for the Michigan party to meet the team at the airport.
Said Bobby Speight of the whole ordeal, “There was no urgency at all.”