This past year the “Kirk Connection” was leading Cassville football to another dominating season. Senior receiver Garrett catching passes from younger brother Gabe. On the night of October 12th the Wildcats were on their way to 8-0 as they were beating Aurora, but late in the game one play, one moment, would change everything for the Kirk family.
“You could hear the hit everywhere. I mean it was ‘pop’”, says Garrett’s mom Kristi.
Garrett doesn’t remember much about the play. “I just remember running and being hit and then laying on the ground.”
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As Garrett lay on the ground, those in attendance hoped Garrett had only suffered a minor injury. But the symptoms he was experiencing were anything buy minor.
“I started feeling pains in my heart,” remembers the senior.
“When he said his heart hurt I took off running for the ambulance,” says Kristi. And then it was off to the hospital.
As Garrett and his mom were Springfield bound in the ambulance, younger brother Gabe was just realizing that his brother’s condition was serious. “When I got back over to the sideline and he wasn’t there and they took him to the hospital, my heart just sank,” recalls Gabe. “I was like, ‘This might not be good.”
Gabe’s premonition was accurate. It wasn’t long after Garrett reached the hospital that the doctors brought the news.
“They said they were going to have to take him into emergency surgery,” says Kristi. “He was bleeding internally and he had a severed spleen.”
Garrett cringes as he recalls the diagnosis. “My spleen was completely cut in half. They said I bled 1/5 of my blood in my abdomen.”
The doctors said if he had arrived at the hospital just a few hours later he could have died. As it was, the surgery was successful, but it left Garrett tired, weak, and with a long road to recovery. Not to mention, his football career was over. The news was hard to hear. “It was heartbreaking. You play all these years to be a senior. Disappointment just came over me. “
His days on the gridiron were over, but his impact as a team leader continued. Just one week after the injury, still in severe pain, Garrett made the trip to Mt. Vernon to root on the Wildcats. “It was really touching,” says little brother Gabe. “He could have stayed home that day, but he showed me that’s what a true brother does.”
And that night, Gabe would show his brother how much he meant to him. The sophomore quarterback began wearing Garrett’s number as a way to honor his injured brother. “I wore his jersey the rest of the season, so I could feel like a part of him was still out there with me.”
In the wake of the injury it seemed like Garrett’s athletic career and his chance to play with his brother had come to an end. But it wasn’t long before the disappointment wore off and his sights turned to basketball. “17 days (after surgery) he asked me if he can start jogging,” Garrett’s dad Brian laughed. “I knew he was getting better.”
After almost eight weeks of recovery, Garrett and Gabe were finally competing together again, this time on the hardwood. The adversity was behind them, but not before the family experienced some valuable lessons.
“People take for granted the things they have,” Brian says. “It can change in a second. You’re not promised tomorrow.”
“I’ve learned that you need to take in all the moments around you and you need to grasp them and you need to enjoy them,” adds Gabe.
Garrett sees it this way, “Life’s short and you just have to live it.”