Barnes' miraculous recovery
TEAYS VALLEY, W.Va. — This Christmas miracle features a child, a star, a wise man, plenty of faith, a pair of titanium rods and a baseball bat.
Trevor Barnes, 16, of Teays Valley is the child and the star — a baseball star. The wise man is Dr. Ted Shuff, the surgeon who inserted the titanium rods into Trevor’s back. The faith comes in when hundreds of people prayed for Trevor’s health before, during and after the surgery to correct severe scoliosis, curvature of the spine.
The miracle is that Trevor not only is playing baseball, but that he made the United States’ 16-under national team, which is playing right now in Australia.
“I believe in the power of prayer,” said Jeff Barnes, Trevor’s dad. “What’s happening with Trevor is a miracle. A true miracle.”
In 2012, Trevor experienced back pain and was diagnosed with mild scoliosis. His doctors said they would keep an eye on it. His next regular exam brought terrifying news.
“The doctor asked if I was sitting down,” Barnes said. “He said I needed to. He told me he’d never seen a curve progress this fast in his life.”
Barnes drew a shape akin to the letter “S” to demonstrate what Trevor’s spine looked like in X-rays.
A 40-degree thorasic curve often requires surgery. Trevor’s was 50 degrees. A brace wasn’t going to help. Surgery was necessary and it needed to be done soon. Without it, the curved spine could result in damage to Trevor’s internal organs and make breathing difficult.
If the curvature progressed, it could have been life threatening.
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Trevor said, admitting at the time he didn’t grasp the severity of his condition. “I thought I’d be OK in a couple of weeks. It turned out it was two months before I could do anything.”
Shuff fused Trevor’s spine from the T3 to L3 vertebrae. Using numerous screws and two titanium rods during a delicate eight-hour procedure, the surgeon and his team straightened Trevor’s spine, leaving a scar from just below his neck nearly to his tailbone.
“Everything went great,” Shuff said.
Jeff Barnes was relieved. His son would live a relatively normal life. Barnes, crying, hugged the doctor and thanked him.
“He can have a good quality of life, even if his athletic career is over,” Jeff Barnes told Shuff.
Shuff was surprised by Barnes’ statement. The doctor was the only person in the waiting room thinking about Trevor on the playing field again.
“His baseball career is over when I say it’s over,” Shuff said. “If he’s willing to work hard and train, I will clear him to play the sport he loves.”
Jeff Barnes, a former pitcher in the Texas Rangers’ organization was stunned to the point of disbelief. He took to the Internet in search of anyone who had undergone such a procedure and returned to competitive baseball.
“I couldn’t find anybody,” he said. “The doctor told me Trevor was going to blaze new territory.”
Trevor remained hospitalized on strong pain medication eight more days. Baseball wasn’t in his thoughts until he went home and his dad told him what the doctor said. Trevor never hesitated. He wanted to return to the sport he cherishes
“My first day I got out, I was walking around a little,” Trevor said. “Nothing more. I had just been in a wheelchair. I knew it would take a lot of work, but I really wanted to play baseball and I was excited to get the chance to play. I was willing to put in the effort to play again.”
Put in the effort, he did. Painful, trying, exhausting effort that tested daily the youngster’s desire to play. He began at Teays Physical Therapy under the watchful eye of trainer Matt Downey, a former Marshall University linebacker.
“I work out with him two or three times a week,” Trevor said. “He’s a great guy. He tells you what to do and he expects you to get it done. I just have to be careful not to overdo it.”
In fewer than six months, Trevor was ready to swing a bat. His father was concerned about how Trevor would perform in batting practice.
“I wondered how can he turn and hit,” Jeff Barnes said. “How can he throw? How can he field?”
Trevor, though, learned that with proper mechanics, he was even better than before. He learned to turn his hips and incorporate his lower half better when hitting, an adjustment that increased his power. He learned to bend his knees more when playing first base, improving his fielding. The left-hander’s velocity off the mound actually increased, although he needed time to regain control and command of his pitches.
Did the surgery impact his foot speed?
“No, I was already pretty slow,” Trevor said, laughing.
It did, however, make him a bigger target at first base. With the surgery, Trevor gained two inches of height and now stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 210 pounds.
The former Hurricane Little League All-Star went on to play at Hurricane Middle School. His comeback was complete.
“My first day of playing, I was rusty,” Trevor said. “It was hard, but it was a great experience to play again after so long. I was tight in my back. It was hard to bend down or catch anything at first. I’ve progressed a lot since then. At the beginning, my back would ache. It got better as I got stronger.”
The miracle, however, didn’t end there. Trevor played last summer for IMG Academy in Florida. Trevor impressed coach Cliff Wren, who talked him into trying our for the Richmond Braves 15-under summer travel team, one of the premier travel programs in the nation. Trevor not only made the club, he earned a spot as the Braves’ starting first baseman.
In October, the miracle comeback continued. Wren selected Barnes to play for the U.S. National Team, which is playing in Australia before returning home Jan. 5. To make the prestigious 16-player team is quite and honor since it features players from throughout the country.
“I was surprised I was picked for it,” Trevor said. “That was great. Dad told me the coach called him and I was so happy. I didn’t expect that at all. It took a lot of hard work. Being where I was, in a wheelchair, I never thought I’d play any sport again, let alone make the national team. Playing teams from other countries is a big deal.”
In the spring, Trevor plans to try out for the Hurricane High School team. A spot on the roster is far from guaranteed, as the defending Class AAA state champion Redskins return a veteran-heavy roster.
“I have to prove myself,” he said. “It’s a very talented team.”
Trevor hopes to play college baseball. His favorite school? Marshall.
“I’d love that,” Trevor said. “I’d love to play for Marshall. That would be a dream come true.”
Who needs dreams when you have a miracle?
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