For Trenton Kelley, the pain was almost unbearable. The Columbus North junior quarterback was conscious for most of the night of Nov. 3, but he doesn’t remember much of it. He does recall being hit several times in the first two minutes of the Bull Dogs’ sectional final football game at Center Grove.
One of those hits — he isn’t sure which one — caused a ruptured spleen.
“I did get up and thought I had just gotten the wind knocked out of me, so I continued playing,” Kelley said.
“A few plays after that, I got hit in roughly the same spot multiple times, and then we came off the field and that’s when I knew something wasn’t right.”
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Kelley remembers talking with North coaches and having trouble breathing. Acting head coach Jason Perry came over, and Kelley couldn’t see him but could hear him.
Perry took Kelley’s helmet to ensure that he wouldn’t go back into the game. Team doctor Cary Guse and trainer Steve Souder had Kelley lay on the ground and started looking at him.
Guse and Souder immediately knew something serious had happened and called an ambulance. Kelley was taken from the stadium to Community South Hospital.
A painful night
Tests at Community South revealed a ruptured spleen, and Kelley was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Until that point, athletics director Jeff Hester and assistant A.D. Wayne Roberts — who had gone to the hospital to be with Kelley — were giving him updates on the game.
Kelley thinks he passed out on the way to or at Methodist. He doesn’t remember finding out the final score — a 20-14 North loss — until the next day.
“This is probably the most painful thing I’ve been through, just because I was mentally afraid, and I didn’t exactly know what was going on,” Kelley said.
“Just the pain was unbearable. I was having a lot of trouble breathing. I couldn’t catch my breath or anything. Then, it felt like something was just pounding inside of me.”
Doctors gave Kelley some pain medicine. A couple of hours later, they performed a two-hour surgery to stop the bleeding in the arteries to his spleen.
Kelley and his parents, Dennis and Shelly, were hoping not to have to have the spleen removed. But three days later, it was getting worse, and they decided to have it removed the next day, Nov. 7.
“Pretty much all the doctors agreed that would be the best for my future, and it ultimately came down to my parents’ decision,” Kelley said.
Doctors told Kelley he would have to go six months with no contact if they would have left the spleen intact. The recovery period without a spleen is six-to-eight weeks.
Functions of the spleen
Guse said the spleen basically is a big filter and has three major functions:
1) The spleen is part of the immune system, makes antibodies and helps filter out certain types of bacteria.
2) The spleen filters out red blood cells as they die or become abnormal.
3) The spleen can store red blood cells, so if someone has a disease, it is a reservoir. In rare circumstances, the spleen can start making them again.
“You can survive without it, but you have to have other parts of the immune system step up,” Guse said. “The body is amazing in that almost everything has a backup system in place. So from a day-to-day life perspective, he won’t notice much of a change at all.”
Guse said those who have had their spleen removed require a flu shot every year, as well as shots for meningitis and pneumonia.
The rehab process
Kelley has been going on walks since arriving home from the hospital. More recently, he has begun riding a stationary bike, working on an elliptical and doing lightweight arm curls in head football coach Tim Bless’ weight training class.
Bless has seen one of his players in a similar situation before. In the summer of 2005, sophomore Jay Notestine sustained a ruptured spleen while playing in a 7-on-7 tournament, also at Center Grove.
Notestine’s parents were at that 7-on-7 tournament and quickly got their son to the hospital. Jay Notestine made it back for basketball that season and for football the following year.
Bless said the symptoms such as intense pain and blurred vision were similar in the cases of Notestine and Kelley.
“Fortunately in both cases, it was young, healthy, strong kids with resilient bodies at that age,” Bless said. “The progress Trent has already made is remarkable. You think about when I saw him just a few weeks ago, he’s making great strides.”
Now, Kelley is one month to the day from the injury. He is hoping to be back on the basketball court by mid-January.
A varsity player last year, Kelley has been attending practices and sitting on the bench at games this season. But he is still at least a couple of weeks away from being able to practice and a couple more from the possibility of contact.
Kelley was the brightest star in a shining football season for the Bull Dogs. He threw a school-record 25 touchdown passes and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player at its postseason banquet.
College coaches had shown interest in Kelley all season, and a couple wrote him letters of encouragement in the aftermath of the injury.
They weren’t the only ones. Fans, classmates, friends and even people from other schools sent cards and notes wishing him well.
“It really brightened my mood when I was down, just seeing how many people were sending wishes to me,” Kelley said.
Kelley would like to follow in the footsteps of his father, a former quarterback at Rose-Hulman, and brother Mitchell, a junior defensive back at Rose-Hulman, and play college football. But since the injury, he is considering not playing.
Trenton, who owns a 4.0 GPA, wants to study engineering or business. He said his health is most important to him.
“(The injury) kind of put my life into perspective for me,” Kelley said. “There’s a lot to be thankful for, and you don’t appreciate the little things in life until they’re taken away from you. My parents and siblings have been great help in really just helping me keeping my spirits up and maintaining a positive attitude.”
He definitely is intent on playing football next year and is ready to put in the work to get back to the strength and agility level that he had prior to the injury.
Bless is certain he can do it.
“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that this is just a bump in the road for him, and he’s going to come back better than ever,” Bless said. “I think he’s resolute to make that happen.”
Name: Trenton Kelley
School: Columbus North
Sports: Football, basketball
Key football stats: Completed 154 for 244 passes for 2,233 yards and 25 touchdowns, carried 44 times for 170 yards and four scores
Family: Parents Dennis and Shelly; siblings Gregory (26), Serena (23) and Mitchell (20)