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Yoder recovers from football injury, prepares for wrestling

Hudson High School sophomore and football player Nick Yoder got more than the wind knocked out of him in a game against River Falls three weeks ago. What first appeared to be a few cracked ribs ended up requiring surgery and putting the 16-year-old in two hospitals for a total of 16 days.

But the news is good and Yoder's doctor says he will make a full recovery. He also said he thinks the HHS wrestler will be able to join his teammates when their season begins later this fall.

At the Sept. 11 junior varsity football game, Yoder's chest came down on the knee of an opposing player early on. Yoder stepped out for a few plays to catch his breath but went back in again. He played until the fourth quarter, when he started to have difficulty breathing and was experiencing some tightness in his chest.

A team trainer suspected that Yoder may have broken a rib or two. Nick's parents, Barb and Kevin, decided to take their son to Hudson Hospital to be checked out. An examination confirmed that Yoder had a collapsed lung along with cracked ribs. One of the ribs tore a hole in Nick's lung.

"The doctor told us that a collapsed lung was a common injury, especially in tall, thin young men. They put in a chest tube and drained fluid from the lung so it could heal," said Barb. Nick remained in the hospital for the next five days. He left still feeling some pain and tightness in his chest but thought it was all part of the recovery.

But Nick didn't recover. By the following Wednesday he had begun to run a fever and his color appeared gray, according to his dad. The family took Nick back to Hudson Hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and hospitalized. His injured lung had collapsed for a second time. Doctors again inserted a chest tube to drain fluid from his lung and treated his pneumonia. They also ran a CAT scan, which revealed several large blood clots located between Nick's injured lung and the chest cavity. While not as dangerous as blood clots in the bloodstream, they still had to be removed. The hospital also consulted with doctors at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where Yoder was transferred for the surgery.

Once at Regions it was discovered that Nick's diaphragm was not functioning properly and appeared to be "frozen" in an arch position. Doctors told the Yoders that the diaphragm could have been torn during the injury or it might have sustained permanent nerve damage that could mean it would limit Nick's lung capacity for life.

Doctors were able to perform orthoscopic surgery to successfully remove the clots on Sept. 24 and found no tear in the diaphragm. Since the surgery, the diaphragm appears to have moved down slightly, indicating that the damage to it is temporary. Doctors expect it will return to normal functioning on its own. Nick came home on Sunday afternoon.

Anxious to get back in the game

Seventeen pounds lighter, Nick is anxious to begin training for the upcoming wrestling season. Upon his release from the hospital, he asked the doctor when he could begin running to get in shape. He is using a breathing device to improve his respiration, and his parents are keeping a close eye on him to prevent a reoccurrence of the pneumonia or lung collapse.

According to their parents, Nick and his brothers, Brian and Ben, are all athletes and competitive. They began playing football in the fifth grade and this is the first serious injury the family has experienced. His parents believe that the combination of Nick's good physical conditioning before the injury along with his competitive spirit are important elements in his recovery. "Nick has always been driven, no matter what he sets out to do, and I think that will help him now," said Barb.

While Nick believes he will be ready to resume school and sports in a matter of days, his parents are taking a more conservative approach and want their son to fully recover before returning to his rigorous routine. Both Kevin and Barb said they are concerned about the condition of Nick's lung and diaphragm and will monitor his recovery closely with Nick's doctors. "But they seem to think he will recover fully, and that's the good news," said Kevin.

The Yoders say they have been overwhelmed by the show of support for their son by his friends, teammates, teachers, school administrators and coaches. "They have all stayed in touch with us, been by to see Nick and called. We've had hot meals dropped by almost every night since it happened. Even some wrestling coaches and parents from Rice Lake have heard about it and called to check how he is. We are very grateful," said Barb.

"It is one of the great things about living in a smaller community," said Kevin. "That kind of show of support only happens in smaller towns like Hudson."

Nick and his parents listened to as many of Hudson's football games as possible on the radio. Nick's brother, Ben, a junior, plays varsity and brought a game ball from the team to Nick while he was in the hospital. Nick and his parents got a play-by-play report of last week's Homecoming game over the radio and the phone. Barb was one of the chairmen of this year's Homecoming celebration and was proud to hear that the Raiders not only won the game but that students pulled off a safe and fun week of activities. "We would have liked to have been there. We will be next year."

Nick said when he was first taken to the hospital, he thought all the fuss was kind of "overkill," but he is grateful for the treatment he received and to be getting his health back. "I just want to thank everybody for the support they have given me and my family. I really appreciate it."

The Yoders are not certain exactly when Nick will return to school full time, but when he does he expects to play in a Raider uniform as well.

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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