A Dassel-Cokato high school football linebacker is recovering after a near-fatal head injury during Friday's game against Orono, requiring doctors to remove half of his skull.
Luke Nelson, or "Boomer," entered his second game of his junior year as a gifted athlete but eventually, his parents knew something was seriously wrong when he collapsed suddenly during the game and began having convulsions.
Sara Nelson said her son has loved sports since he was only a knee high, rarely seen without donning a jersey. Now, his playing days are likely over.
"You don't want to be the parent that runs on the field, but we were the parents that ran on the field," she said.
According to Nelson, her son's injury didn't happen during a single play, but likely a culmination of several hits.
"There might have been a head on head or maybe a knee on head collision, and a couple plays later we saw him stumbling around very disoriented not knowing where he was at," she said.
Luke Nelson was taken to a local hospital and after a CT scan found bleeding on his brain, the 16-year-old was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center and rushed into emergency surgery.
"It's a blessing we ended up at HCMC. They have been tremendous," Sara Nelson said. "They saved his life and we are so grateful."
The linebacker suffered a head injury two years ago, but not nearly as serious. After passing a concussion test, he was cleared to play the following year. His mother reluctantly agreed, and his father said he now sees things a little differently.
"There's a whole lot more to life than just winning that game Friday night. We need to get kids to understand that and I was one of those dads that wasn't willing to go that route, you know. But I've seen the other side now," Greg Nelson said.
The Nelson family says it was a shock when they realized how close their son had come to dying, Now they're dealing with his recovery one day at a time.
"The right half of his scull is removed, but in the last 24 hours he has made tremendous gains," Sara Nelson said. "He knows that he had an accident in football. He's disappointed that they lost after it."
Now, he's coming to terms with the fact he may never compete again -- at least not on the field.
"Luke is smart in the game. He loves, he knows all the stats. He knows all of these things and I think he will find a way to be part of that team," Sara Nelson said.
Another CT scan and tests will reveal more information on Monday. His parents aren't sure when doctors plan to replace his skull, but he's been alert and talking. He knows he was injured during a football game and was still disappointed they lost.