On July 29, Jaylend Ratliffe was riding ATVs with some of histeammates when he had a serious ATV crash and had to be airlifted to the hospital. Just 5 days before the crash, Ratliffe was visiting Tech, and had made it public knowledge that he planned to enroll early at Tech for the 2015 spring semester. Once at the hospital, Ratliffe was diagnosed with a fractured skull and was in critical condition. At first, Ratliffe was responsive to commands and could move his limbs; unfortunately, the swelling around his brain caused him a lot of pain.
On July 31, Ratliffe went through a procedure to relieve the pressure on his brain which was successful.
However, later in the day he was put into a medically induced coma, and surgery was performed to remove a piece of his skull. After surgery he was able to respond to family members but was still in critical condition.
Ratliffe played his high school football in North Carolina at Scotland County High School. He led his team to the 4-A state championship game where they lost to Jack Britt High School. Scotland County finished their season 15-1, and expectations were high for the team this season.
The team has still been practicing in preparation for the season, but practice is not the same without their leader.
On August 3, Richard Bailey, Ratliffe’s head coach at Scotland County, announced that Tech will honor Ratliffe’s scholarship at Georgia Tech regardless of whether or not he is able to play football.
He will be given a full scholarship during his time at Tech which will be listed as a medical hardship scholarship if he is not able to play. The most important thing for Ratliffe is that he is able to get healthy once again, and, if football is no longer an option, that he is able to succeed academically while at Georgia Tech.
Due to Ratliffe’s medical bills, many community members started fundraisers for him. Many donations came in from George P. Burdell, and over $8,000 was raised online. Another $10,000 was raised from selling t-shirts that had Ratliffe’s #2 and “Strong” printed on them.
As of August 16, Ratliffe has been moved out of the intensive care unit and has started minor rehab in the pediatric wing of the hospital. His coach visited before a scrimmage against Mallard Creek and said that he is doing well, but his recovery would be slow and steady.
At the time, Ratliffe hadn’t passed a swallow test and was still using a feeding tube, but he was off the ventilator and able to speak some words.
On August 21 Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, visited him in the hospital. Newton is one of Ratliffe’s favorite NFL players, and he was very happy to see him. Ratliffe is now able to walk and move his arms more; however, he is still unable to swallow and has lost a considerable amount of weight.
His coach and family are hoping he is out of the hospital by end of September, but he still has to undergo another brain surgery to put pieces of his skull back in place. The doctors have not told him whether or not he will be able to play football again, but hopefully Ratliffe will one day be able to suit up on the football field and continue to try and make his dreams come true.