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University of Iowa News Release

 

Aug. 15, 2007

Kernels To Honor UI Patient At Aug. 21 Game

The Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team will honor a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics patient at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, prior to that evening's game.

Film producer Tony Wilson sustained severe injuries in a helicopter crash while filming a movie set in Iowa. He will be honored when the Kernels hold their next Homerun for Life event.

Wilson was a key player in bringing to life a movie project called "The Final Season," a story celebrating small-town Iowa and the game of baseball. On June 30, 2006, Wilson, cameraman Roland Schlotzhauer, and pilot Richard Green were flying along Highway 151 while shooting some of the final scenes for the movie. The helicopter struck a power line and crashed, nose first, killing Schlotzhauer and severely injuring Wilson and Green.

The two survivors were transported by AirCare to the Level I Trauma Center at UI Hospitals and Clinics, where a team of trauma experts, including the Surgical Intensive Care Unit team headed by Steven Hata, M.D., devoted itself to both patients' recoveries.

"Given the severity of injuries, the outcome for both patients was quite fortunate," said orthopedic surgeon Sergio Mendoza, M.D., who performed Wilson's spine reconstructive procedures.

Wilson's Injury Severity Score was 48; any score above 15 is considered major.

His injuries included severe chest trauma, a spine fracture with spinal cord injury, and severe leg injuries. Besides two major spine operations, Wilson underwent "bone transport," a leg-lengthening procedure performed by orthopedic surgeon Larry Marsh, M.D., and colleagues. Overall, Wilson underwent a total of five surgeries, including back and ankle surgeries to remove bone fragments.

Following his discharge from UI Hospitals and Clinics, Wilson underwent extensive rehabilitation in Des Moines to learn how to walk again. Doctors estimated it would take him four to six weeks to relearn this skill, but Wilson learned how to walk again in a little over two weeks.

Today, the 1978 UI graduate walks in near-normal fashion and hopes to jog again as he continues to rehabilitate.

"The care I received was exceptional," Wilson said. "Everyone was so kind to our family. We had quite a prayer chain going with a lot of people involved."

Wilson added, "It was a horrible accident but if it had to happen, I couldn't have gone to a better place than University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics."

Wilson devoted 15 years of his life to the making of "The Final Season." It tells the true story of Kent Stock, who, in the early 1990s, gave up a job and ditched his wedding plans to take over as head coach of the storied high school baseball team in Norway, Iowa. Stock had to win over his players and convince them -- and himself -- that he could fill their legendary former coach's shoes, and that they could go out winners in what became tiny Norway High's final baseball season.

Some scenes from "The Final Season" were filmed at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the home field of the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

The Kernels' Homerun for Life program started last year after the idea was brought home from a game in Dayton, Ohio, where the Dayton Dragons have a similar initiative.

Working with staff at UI Hospitals and Clinics, the Kernels pick people who have made surprising recoveries from grievous injuries or near-fatal illnesses. Those selected are given free tickets to the game for themselves and their families, and are brought onto the field during pre-game activities.

"The Final Season" was recently picked up by Sony and will hopefully be released soon. The Kernels will show a two-minute promotional trailer about the movie during the Homerun for Life event honoring Wilson. Learn more about the movie by visiting online at http://www.finalseason.com.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu