Marengo junior Alten Bergbreiter relaxed in a recliner and enjoyed watching NFL games Sunday afternoon.
It was a far better view than the one he had a day earlier.
After suffering a frightening neck injury in Friday night’s Marengo vs. Johnsburg football game, the Indians wide receiver-defensive back-kicker was flown to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
Bergbreiter did not recall a lot of the 24 hours he was immobilized in his hospital bed, but it did not affect his sense of humor.
“About half of it I don’t even remember, but, I got a good look at the ceiling,” Bergbreiter said Sunday afternoon back in his family’s Marengo home. “That’s all I could look at for a while. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t fun by any means.”
After what transpired Friday when Bergbreiter was tackled near midfield by Indians’ sideline, the Bergbreiter family feels extremely fortunate.
Bergbreiter had returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, then added a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, he caught a pass from quarterback David Lopez and was hit hard by the Marengo bench.
As Lisa Bergbreiter described it, her son’s body went forward and his neck went backward. The stadium fell silent as Marengo trainer Erin Randall and paramedics attended to him.
The play happened with 2:44 remaining and Marengo trailing 18-17. For more than 30 minutes, the paramedics worked on immobilizing and helping Bergbreiter. He was in an ambulance, but the decision was made to transport him by helicopter to Condell Advocate Medical Center in Libertyville. The destination was then switched to Lutheran General.
“It was so scary. It took 30 or 40 minutes to get him stabilized,” Lisa Bergbreiter said. “When it first happened, his right side he could not move much at all. His fingers or his toes. He was fine on the left side. He’s getting his strength back, but his right side is still weaker than his left side.”
Medical personnel had a CAT scan done on Bergbreiter’s head, then did a 2 1/2-hour MRI on his neck and back. Lisa Bergbreiter said there was swelling around the spine, but no spinal damage.
At one point between the CAT scan and MRI, she shared a video with her son from the team. The players recorded a message with news of their 25-18 victory.
While Alten looked at the ceiling, he watched the video on her phone.
“I couldn’t laugh, so I just smiled,” Alten Bergbreiter said. “I was so happy. That’s all I wanted at that point was for them to win.
“If nobody told me what happened, I don’t think I would remember much. But when I was told what happened, it kind of clicked back with me, what actually did happen. I don’t remember the hit at all, but the play itself I do remember.”
The situation was difficult for both teams as everyone wondered about Bergbreiter’s condition.
“He was probably out for 10 seconds or so,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said. They had to make the call (for the helicopter). The delay and everyone’s thinking about him and not sure what’s going to happen. That’s never easy.”
Marengo’s coaches and players were encouraged with what they heard early Saturday morning.
“I actually talked to him Saturday morning around 12:30,” Forsythe said. “His dad put him on speaker and was able to talk to him.”
Bergbreiter just started playing football last year as a kicker. He’s taken on more roles this season at wide receiver and defensive back. Coincidentally, on his last athletic event in Johnsburg, he delivered a walk-off single as the Indians beat Richmond-Burton 3-2 for the Class 2A Regional baseball championship.
Lisa Bergbreiter said she and Steve help Alten walk around the house now, but thinks that will change in the next couple days.
“We don’t go far. We have to watch him,” Lisa Bergbreiter said. “He pretty much holds Steve’s arm. He had to be able to walk to come home. They thought they could release him (Saturday), but he stood up to walk and got dizzy and a headache. So they kept him one more day.
“(Sunday) he got up and did two walks. It makes him a little dizzy and gives him a headache. He’s stuck in the recliner for a while now.”
Lisa Bergbreiter brought Alten his cellphone to the hospital on Saturday and he had more text messages than he could count, some from people he didn’t even know.
“We had lots of people reaching out to us,” Lisa Bergbreiter said. “The love and support was amazing. That totally helped Alten with his recovery. We came out of it better than anybody expected with how it was looking when we got there. It was very scary.”
Alten Bergbreiter’s first goal will be to attend Friday’s 7 p.m. homecoming game against Harvard. He is part of the homecoming court.
“I would love to be there. It’s a day-to-day thing at this point in time,” he said. “If you asked me right now, I would say 100% I’m going to try and be there. But if I had to go do it right now, the answer would be no.”
Bergbreiter also has another goal that seems astonishing at this juncture.
“His goal is to be back on the field for Sandwich (a 3 p.m. game on Saturday, Oct. 14),” Forsythe said . “They have not ruled it out yet. They haven’t said it would happen. They said it could be season-ending or several games. It’s too early to rule anything out. He told them he would be on the field for that Sandwich game.”