Columbus North students and staff, embracing what their principal called prayer in their hearts, struggled to get though a difficult day after learning that a student was critically injured in a car accident.
Social media lit up after the Sunday night accident near Taylorsville and continued into Monday as students used Twitter and Facebook to share updates on the condition of 18-year-old star basketball player Josh Speidel.
The condition of the Columbus North senior, whose mother Lisa Speidel is an assistant principal at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour, was listed as critical but stable Monday in IU Health Methodist Hospital’s intensive care unit in Indianapolis, according to hospital officials.
North Principal David Clark said members of the 2,100-student high school demonstrated hopefulness regarding Speidel’s recovery, signing a large card for him set out in front of the counseling office. Numerous Twitter messages were sent under the hashtag #joshstrong.
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“It is very somber at school,” North athletics director Jeff Hester said. “Josh is in everyone’s hearts and minds. It’s all anyone is thinking about.”
North head basketball coach Jason Speer, who was at Methodist with the Speidel family Sunday night and Monday, said the player was placed in a medically induced coma.
Columbus North officials received information Monday morning from the student’s family that he had undergone a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain and that the next 72 hours in his recovery from a traumatic brain injury would be critical.
Lisa Speidel said Monday her son is stable and breathing on his own and the pressure on his brain is at a normal level.
“He has been maintaining that normal blood pressure. They did a CAT scan last night (Sunday night) and this morning (Monday), and there have been no changes. There has been no more bleeding,” she said.
“It’s all quite amazing, quite a miracle — at least we are calling it a miracle,” she said in a telephone interview from the hospital. “There were no internal injuries.”
Her son has a skull fracture on his left side and his right jaw was fractured, she said.
Doctors’ concern continues to be the blood pressure on his brain remaining within a normal level, she said. The medical staff has started taking him off medication that has helped Speidel sleep and the process has begun to wake him up on his own.
“I just want to see him open his eyes, and I want to hear his voice,” his mother said.
Speidel is Columbus North’s all-time leading scorer in boys basketball. The 6-foot-8 power forward is averaging 25.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season and has been nominated to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
He signed a letter of intent to play basketball next season at the University of Vermont, whose coach John Becker was planning to travel to Indianapolis to be with the Speidel family.
Becker had hoped to fly to Indianapolis Monday, but flights were canceled because of the weather, Vermont sports information director Lisa Champagne said. The Vermont team has a home game tonight, but Becker hopes to be on a flight to Indianapolis on Wednesday.
The university tweeted, “Please pray for Josh Speidel. He’s a great kid who needs everyone’s support during this time! VT and UVM are with you Josh! #joshstrong.”
Friends, family gather
Collin Ebel, who has been one of Speidel’s closest friends since second grade, said he was stunned to learn of the accident.
Ebel and Speidel had been to a church league basketball game Saturday and afterward attended the North girls’ senior night game.
Ebel was among about 40 people in a Methodist Hospital waiting room Sunday night as Speidel’s family came out to give several updates about his condition. Family members broke down as they tried to deliver each report, he said, adding that they expressed gratitude to all the people who were there and those who were praying for their son.
He described Speidel as a fun-loving friend and the nicest guy anyone could ever meet.
“It’s crazy to think how popular he is,” Ebel said, referring to his star status on the Bull Dogs basketball team. “But he talks to everybody. He treats everyone the same way.”
When Speidel wakes up, Ebel said, he was going to give him a big hug and “tell him that I love him.”
“He has all my support, and he has all of Columbus’ support,” Ebel said.
Banners, posters, fundraisers
Ebel’s girlfriend, Lauren McNeely, said Columbus North cheerleaders are preparing a banner and 11-by-17-inch #joshstrong posters for students to display at tonight’s home basketball game against Hamilton Southeastern.
“We want to show Josh when he wakes up all the prayers and support for him and for his family,” McNeely said.
The signs have been donated by Quick Signs and Prestige Printing in Columbus.
Some members of the boys team participated in a shoot-around Monday after school Monday instead of a typical practice for tonight’s game.
“We are doing this in the spirit of finding some kind of normalcy,” Speer said.
The North High School athletics department is having T-shirts made to raise money in support of the Speidel family. The shirts will have the #joshstrong logo and Speidel’s number on the back. They will be $10, with all proceeds going to the family.
A pasta dinner was planned for 5 p.m. today before the North game, with proceeds also going to help the Speidel family with medical bills, according to social media reports. Tickets are $5.
Speidel was taken to Methodist by ambulance after a two-vehicle collision 7 p.m. Sunday at U.S. 31 and Bear Lane. Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies said Speidel suffered serious injuries in the crash.
Support has swelled throughout Columbus.
Columbus East officials called North Monday morning offering assistance. Columbus East also set up an area where East students could write messages of support to Speidel under the hashtag, JSpeidel24 (which is Josh Speidel’s Twitter account) #ColumbusSticksTogether.
Lisa McCarter, president of East’s Quarterback Club, said the Olympians’ get-well messages will be sent to Methodist with family friends who are traveling back and forth to help the Speidel family.
“So many of these kids play on travel teams growing up, and lots of kids at East grew up with Josh,” said McCarter, whose family is friends of the Speidels.
“It’s just really scary. I don’t know another word to describe it,” McCracken said. “We’re just feeling helpless.”
McCracken has been calling area teams to see if they are interested in ordering basketball wrist sweatbands that will have Speidel’s number, 32, on them, along with his name in North’s blue and white colors.
“East and North are rivals when they play, but I am sure there are just as many East students who are upset as North students,” she said.
Clark described Speidel as a good student and a leader on the basketball court.
Speidel is a “take-charge kind of person,” a student who worked hard and did whatever was asked of him at North, his principal said.
“He was at the gym by himself running stair steps sometimes,” Clark said of Speidel’s dedication to basketball and his team.
A prayer chain was activated at Community Church of Columbus, which the Speidel family attends.
The church’s pastor, Chuck Coleman, was with the family at Methodist on Monday, according to the church receptionist. The church is collecting gasoline gift cards for the family to defray expenses of the family traveling back and forth to the hospital. Gift cards for gasoline may be dropped off at the church at 3850 N. Marr Road.
Lisa Speidel said the family has been “blown away” by the people who are worried about and are praying for her son.
“It has been amazing. We have been blessed with this community support,” she said. “We are overwhelmed by the calls coming in from all over the country.”
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Columbus North is hosting a pasta dinner at 5 p.m. today prior to the North-Hamilton Southeastern basketball game. Tickets are $5 and proceeds will be used to help Josh Speidel’s family with medical bills.
Community Church of Columbus, 3850 N. Marr Road, is collecting gasoline gift cards for the Speidel family, to alleviate costs of traveling to and from Methodist Hospital. The gift cards may be dropped off at the church between 8 a.m. and noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Fridays. For more information, call 812-376-9478.
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Columbus North cheerleaders are preparing a banner and 11 by 17-inch #joshstrong posters for students to display at tonight’s home basketball game against Hamilton Southeastern. The North athletic department also will sell $10 T-shirts with the logo and Josh Speidel’s number 32 to raise money for the family.