14 year old Tyler Heidbrink was an all-star athlete, playing football and basketball, and competing with a select baseball team in his hometown. However, Tyler’s athletic career was jeopardized when he had an accident that tore his left shoulder open.
“We live off of a gravel road and I was taking my brother and sister out on our Polaris Ranger over to a neighbor’s house,” recalls Tyler. “I went around a corner too fast, lost control and crashed.”
Although Tyler’s siblings were okay, Tyler was thrown into a barbed wire fence, which left a large gash in his shoulder.
“When he came back to our house, I was shocked because his left shoulder muscle was completely torn off of the bone and I could see the head of his humerus bone completely sticking out,” says Tyler’s mother, Melissa, herself a nurse. “I drove him to the ambulance shed in town and they immediately said he needed to be flown to the hospital.”
Tyler was sent to St. Louis Children’s Hospital where Washington University orthopedic surgeon and adolescent sports medicine specialist Jeffrey Nepple, MD, treated the open fracture of Tyler’s shoulder blade and a severe de-gloving injury that resulted in both skin and muscle being torn from the bone. He was frank in his assessment of the injury — it would be extremely complex to repair and there were no guarantees that the nerve to Tyler’s muscle wasn’t permanently damaged, thereby impacting his arm mobility and strength forever.
Tyler’s surgery took several hours. After three days in the hospital, he was discharged home with his arm immobilized in a sling. After six weeks, he was cleared to start physical therapy. Determined to get back to team sports, Tyler worked hard to rehabilitate his arm. He would get up at 5 a.m. and complete all of his physical therapy exercises on his own before heading to school.
Although Tyler missed the fall football season, he was back to basketball practice in November- just four months after his accident. When spring baseball season rolled back around, Tyler was playing shortstop, pitcher and, occasionally, catcher for his hometown team. After his baseball team's regular season had ended, Tyler was asked to join a select team from Union, MO and participate with them in the Show-Me State Games.
“It’s been nothing short of amazing,” says Melissa. “The accident severely injured his left arm and shoulder. Being a nurse and knowing that if the cut had been just a little deeper, it could have severed a major artery. That really took my breath away.”
Tyler is also grateful to the team at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for his recovery. Tyler says, “I know it was a bad injury and I’m happy that everyone prayed for me and helped me to recover.”