Olathe East’s James McGinnis still spreading love years after traumatic brain injury


OLATHE, Kan. — It’s been seven years since Olathe East High School senior James McGinnis suffered a traumatic brain injury on the football field. He’s made a remarkable recovery. Now his family is hoping a new form of treatment will let him live independently.

When James McGinnis left the field in an ambulance the odds weren’t in his favor to survive let alone ever walk again.

“I was going in for a routine tackle, McGinnis, now 25 explains.

He doesn’t remember the play but has heard many accounts of the dramatic moments after. He was able to play another down, but a minute later McGinnis was face down on the football field with an acute subdural hematoma, causing bleeding on his brain.

“At the time of the injury we didn’t ask odds of survival we were just happy he was still breathing,” his father Patrick McGinnis said.

McGinnis spent five days in a coma, 18 days in intensive care. But 18 months after his injury he returned to the field where he collapsed and walked off on his own power saying he wanted to replace everyone’s bad memories of that night. He doesn’t need any reminder of the freak accident, he says he feels like he just hit his funny bone every minute of the day.

“I can’t feel any of my fingers whatsoever, just tingling for me, not the most comfortable thing,” he said.

It keeps him from safely being able to use the stairs. The family has had to make modifications with a lift in the home and a special grip to drive a car.

But he can use his hand to make a love sign, and he’s been using his voice to spread the message to love one another speaking to groups ever since being named a Simone Award winner.

“I was like James you couldn’t have done that in front of 4 people before what’s different?” Patrick said about first hearing James give a motivational speech.

“And I go Dad after you’ve faced death like I have what’s there to be afraid of,” he responded.

McGinnis will begin stem cell treatment later this month.

“Regardless if it helps advance the ball forward using a football analogy then we’re game,” his father said.

Either way McGinnis is happy with his life and still loves the game of football. He never misses a Chiefs game and does a chin up for every touchdown they score.

“If Mahomes ever wants to throw me a touchdown pass I’m game,” he joked.

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