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The Hutchinson News: Brain surgery takes teen from sideline to starter

Eric Moore

Eric Moore walked into a neurosurgeon’s office six months after undergoing brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. His mind was set on illuminating a hopeless future.

In his left hand, Moore gripped the white face mask on a royal blue Pretty Prairie helmet lined with a special padding. A specialized chin strap wadded in the interior of the helmet. He clutched a curved, black polystyrene foam neck cowboy collar in his right.

“The neurosurgeon told him he hated football,” said Eric’s mother, Dee.

The doctor couldn’t help but chuckle when Eric strutted through the door with the safety equipment in tow, saying, “I see you want to play football.”

“Yes sir, I do,” said Eric, who is now a senior at Pretty Prairie.

But before Eric self-assuredly paraded through the door, he and his mother sat in the waiting room at Children’s Mercy Hospital unable to tear their attention away from a computer screen, especially Eric.

A picture of children accompanied by inspiring catch phrases flickered across the monitor. Then one in particular caught Eric’s eye. It was of a young man wearing the likeness of the Green Bay Packers green and yellow, posed in a throwing motion with an arrow separating the 16 letters bubbled next to his helmet: “Sidelined-Starter.”

“It was like a phrase that I had, but I didn’t think it was true,” Eric said.

Dee was excited, yet hesitant. Eric had endured hours of brain surgery that left a 4-inch incision on the right side of his partially shaved scalp. The tumor was initially diagnosed as a cyst filled with fluid, forcing Eric to sit out the last six games of his sophomore season in 2014.

Dee told doctors to remove the growth when the diagnostics confirmed it was a tumor. She and her husband Chris prayed, at times in tears, for Eric. Dee spoke with such pride and hope when she said Eric’s name, and his twin brother Ethan’s.

But her voice began to crack. She paused and tried to speak, but her voice rattled. She cleared her throat, but all that followed was a sigh.

“I didn’t want him to ever play again, after seeing him in the hospital with his head shaved over the incision,” Dee said.

She remembered her son losing the battle before it even started.

The then-15-year-old went to his mother’s classroom at Pretty Prairie Middle School.

Eric crumbled in front of his mother. It was the first time her son expressed to his mother he was afraid he would die during surgery.

Eric moped to the corner of his mother’s classroom and cried. Most 15 year olds have the weight of homework barreling down on them. Eric was struggling with the pressure of brain surgery to remove a benign tumor.

She buzzed the office and wanted Pretty Prairie football coach CT Young to talk to Eric.

“This is not a negative,” Young said as he recalled the conversation. “It’s a positive. It was proven that you have this problem that is going to affect your life, and now there is a way to fix it. The doctor wouldn’t have suggested surgery if he didn’t think it was going to work. It’s about the quality of your life.

“This surgery can give you that quality, and get Eric back to being Eric. Football is minuscule right now.”

Football was as small as the wiry Pretty Prairie lineman still trying to find his way on the team. He remembered the cold-cocking hit he absorbed against Pratt Skyline that season that brought notice to his tumor.

He was playing defense and burst through the offensive line and, in his own words, was “lit up” by a fullback lead blocking on a run. Moore staggered after the hit. Ethan said his brother absorbed numerous hits that game, and any one of the collisions could’ve resulted in the dizziness Eric felt.

Even when Eric sat out the rest of his sophomore campaign, he still stood on the sideline wearing his No. 24 jersey. He missed nearly two months of school, but he overcame the classroom obstacles and memory loss. Yet, he couldn’t shake the loss of football.

Eric told his coach about his visit with the doctor, and it was time to finish what he started when Eric walked through the neurosurgeon’s door with tunnel vision.

“After my surgery, I thought I would never play football again,” Eric said. “There’s just no way, and going to that point, I thought there’s no way he’s going to let me play.”

Eric got back in the weight room the following year and was in disbelief. He trotted out on the field for the first practice of the season during his junior year. The grass under his cleats felt like stepping into a thick swamp, the leather and laces on the football felt like a newborn, and pulling his shoulder pads over his head was surreal.

“I was so excited and a little bit nervous,” Eric said. “I was cleared to play. But I still felt so nervous because if that was my third concussion, but I was excited to be back on the field.”

He altered his style of hitting to more form tackling while jarring the ball loose from opposing players with crackling hits. He went from thinking he might not see the light of day again to believing he would again play under the lights on Friday nights once more.

“It’s amazing to go from not being on the field and thinking you’ll never be able to play, to playing a big key role being a leader on the team,” Eric said.

Eric survived. Dee called it a miracle. Young remained confident. Ethan laughed and said his family often endures misfortunes.

Even if it’s only for the last few games of the 2016 season, Eric fought back to play football again.


Read the story via The Hutchinson News.

Learn more about Children's Mercy's Division of Neurology.