Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Soccer team brings home medal to teammate in coma

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        FORT THOMAS A Fort Thomas soccer team honored a teammate lying in a coma at Children's Hospital Sunday by placing the gold medal they won at the Bluegrass State Games on his chest.

        Woodfill Warriors soccer teammate Kenny Bradford was swinging on a rope swing near his Sergeant Avenue home July 25 when he apparently slipped and landed in a ravine.

        Kenny's dad, Gary Bradford, who works in shipping and receiving at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, said his son is in critical condition, and is in a medically induced coma with a skull fracture and fractures in both of his hips.

        Capt. Greg Schultz of the Fort Thomas Fire Department, part of Kenny's nine-man rescue team, said that Kenny “could have been as high as 30 feet when he fell.”

        The captain said that the rescue was difficult because of the ravine's terrain.

        After Kenny was restrained, he was put into a spoke basket, and hauled out of the ravine on ropes.

        Gary said that the Warriors, whom he used to coach, held a meeting the day after Kenny fell to decide whether they should attend the Olympic-style Bluegrass State games in Lexington.

        The team had just won the state championship three weeks earlier.

        “I just let them know that Kenny would have wanted them to go,” Kenny's father said. “He loves the game.”

        Julie Rice, whose husband, Dave, is the assistant coach for the Warriors, said that the boys all wore Kenny's number on their shirts and on white wristbands while playing.

        Kenny's twin, Chris, wore his brother's jersey.

        When the games were over Sunday, Ms. Rice said that Chris, who is staying with her family temporarily, rushed back to Cincinnati to give his brother the gold medal. Though doctors had already induced Kenny's coma for safety reasons, the twins' father said that the moment was touching.

        “Chris comes in and laid the medal on his chest — it was just really neat,” Gary said.

        Chris, along with Coach Rice and a teammate, also brought Kenny his jersey, worn in the game, and a soccer ball signed by other teams.

        Kenny's mother, Linda Bradford, said that she believes that Kenny would not be alive if it had not been for Zach Austin, a boy who was playing with Kenny and Chris at the time of the accident.

        While Chris ran for help, Austin, 12, took care of Kenny. Austin, whose mother is a nurse, tilted Kenny's head, cleared his mouth of blood so he didn't choke and restrained him as he thrashed around.

        “I don't think he'd be in the condition he is today — alive — without him,” Mrs. Bradford said.

        The Bradfords both said that the Fort Thomas community that they grew up in has shown an overwhelming amount of support for the family.

        “It's been unbelievable,” Gary said. “Anything you'd want, I've been offered it a million times.” Gary said that Chris and the boys' older brother, Mike, 14, are handling the situation well.

        “We're just going one day at a time, and he'll walk out of this hospital,” Kenny's mother said. “We have no doubt. He's just too strong.”

        Mrs. Rice and her husband have started a campaign to raise money for the family.

        Those who want to donate to the Bradford family can contact any Fifth Third Bank branch and ask to donate to the Kenny Bradford fund.


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