ANDERSON — Many local residents will have reasons to be thankful, but none more than the family of Holden Harless.
For the second time Harless, 18, had to have major surgery to remove a tumor from his spine.
Despite having the second surgery in May, Harless was determined to play football in his senior year for the Lapel High School football team.
When he was three years old doctors discovered a tumor inside his spine.
“He had it from birth, it took forever to find out,” his father Scott said. “Our options were let it go and let it grow and he would be paralyzed or do surgery and nothing was guaranteed. It was not good odds.
“It was removed and he had to learn how to walk again. He had therapy and the whole nine yards. He was walking in three or four months. Lot of good physical therapists over the years.”
His mother Wendy said her son would have been paralyzed at the age of three.
For the past 15 years, Holden would undergo regular check-ups and they thought after 10 years the tumor wouldn’t return.
Fast forward to this spring.
“I was at a friend’s house playing pool and felt a pain in my back,” Holden said. “From there it progressed. There were sharp shooting pains and went for an MRI.”
Wendy said the return of the tumor was shocking because they through it was over with.
“It was almost ten years to the day,” she said. “It was devastating. We thought he was out of the woods.
“I thought why is this happening again,” Wendy said. “Why can’t he catch a break.”
Scott said he was supposed to get his last MRI in November, which would have been the last one.
“At 10 years they thought it was gone and after 15 years it came back,” he said. “The surgeon was really surprised. They didn’t get it all the first time because there were fingers wrapped around the nerves. This time she’s confident she got the fingers out. We’re praying.”
Holden had to relearn to walk after the second surgery, which took approximately three weeks.
“I thought I would play football,” Holden said. “My only goal was to get back and play football.”
Scott said the family planned a fishing trip last June and Holden had to be able to walk to the boat. It was a trip his son made.
Scott said the surgeon, Dr. Jodi Smith, said depending on how well the surgery went, playing football would be up to him.
“Football practice started in June, which I just sat through for most of it,” Holden said. “The first game I missed because I didn’t have enough practices. I was cleared to play.”
Holden played offensive guard and defensive tackle and earned letters all four years with the Lapel team.
“I told my teammates to not take it easy on me,” Holden said. “It’s hard bouncing back and still as of right now getting used to having to do normal things.
“I knew I would be all right,” he laughed. “I had the best surgeon in the world.”
Wendy said her soon has a passion for football and she wasn’t going to deny him the opportunity to play.
“It was scary,” she said, “but the surgeon wouldn’t have let him play if there was a risk.”
Wendy said her son always gives 110% in whatever he does and is always willing to help others.
Holden has been accepted at Anderson University and is considering becoming a conservation officer.
He said he might try to be a walk on at AU for football.
“Dr. Jodi Smith is phenomenal and she’s the reason I’m here and able to do everything I’m doing right now,” Holden said. “I’m feeling good. I have a tingling feeling from the knee to my one foot and it should go away eventually.”