ATHENS — Damon Knowles talked about baseball and basketball with his cousin, Luke Lamson, one warm Sunday last December.
That’s not unusual for the two young teens, but that day Lamson lay crushed beneath the wheels of a semi trailer loaded with corn and weighing more than 30,000 pounds.
His cousin had crawled beneath the trailer to keep Lamson awake until the ambulance arrived with the Jaws of Life. Both boys were in eighth grade at the time.
Immediately following the accident, “My dad told me to go get the phone so we could call 911,” Knowles, 14, said. “I went under the trailer and was talking to Luke. I just had to keep asking him if he could breathe.”
That accident drastically changed the way Lamson figured his freshman year at Athens High School would play out. Instead of running cross country and playing basketball this year, he is on the sidelines cheering his teammates.
The fact the 14-year-old can actually do that now is a story of amazing recovery and faith.
Knowles, his dad John and Lamson were the only ones at the farm, moving the corn to the silo at the time of the accident. None of them knows exactly how the accident happened, but John Knowles said the ground was soft from rain the day before, which probably kept his nephew from being crushed to death.
Lamson said he was awake the entire time, but doesn’t remember much about the accident.
“It didn’t kill him because we kept the pressure on him,” an emotional John Knowles said. “I could have drove the truck off him. Had a piece of machinery there, I could have tipped the truck off him.
“But I kept the pressure on him and he didn’t bleed internally. There was a higher power telling me not to get the trailer off him. He should have never made it out from under the trailer, never made it to the hospital. The first couple days were nerve-wracking.
“By the time I got to the hospital (later that day), half of Athens was there. We had over 90 people in the waiting room that night; probably 25 of them spent the night.”
Said Lamson’s mother, Lucy: “Being the adult and the one driving the vehicle, my brother was a mess. This little guy (Damon) was down there with Luke, underneath the trailer while he was pinned and held his head and made him stay awake and just kept talking with him.
“To me, that was the first miracle. Luke is sitting here right now because of it.”
The family created a Facebook page, Lukey Lamson’s Comeback, to post updates for friends and family.
The first entry explained: “He has a shattered pelvis, a compound fracture in his shoulder, a fracture in his lower back, and numerous open wounds. He currently just got out of surgery and they were able to attach a wound vac to help his wounds heal.
“We are receiving some communication from him such as waves, thumbs up, and hand squeezes when he is off his sedation medication, which is only for a few minutes at a time.”
Lamson, who spent two months in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital and one in University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said at the beginning he wasn’t sure he would live.
“There was times in the hospital that Luke wasn’t real fun to be around,” his uncle said. “There was one time I come around the corner and my mother and my sister were crying. I said what’s wrong. They said Luke wants to die.
“So I walked in there. I asked the two nurses to leave. We had a good heart-to-heart talk, and things changed.”
By Dec. 10, three days after the accident, Lamson was taken off the ventilator. And by Christmas, he had survived seven surgeries.
On Dec. 28 he was moved from the intensive care unit to a regular room, and by Jan. 20 he was able to sit in a wheelchair for the first time. He left Bronson for Mott’s on Feb. 3.
One bright spot in those early days came from Bronson Hospital’s Dr. Michael Leinwand who learned that Lamson is a huge Michigan State fan. He arranged for a visit from two students from the MSU dance team along with mascot Sparty.
Lamson had an attitude adjustment at Mott’s, where he found inspiration after watching an ESPN short called “Miraculous: The Austin Hatch Story,” about the University of Michigan basketball player.
“(Hatch) survived two plane crashes and lost his mother, father, two siblings and a stepmother in those two airplane crashes,” Lucy Lamson said. “He had a crushed pelvis, brain injuries. He worked like there was no tomorrow, and he didn’t have the family to support him.
“After we watched the story, Luke looked at me and said he doesn’t even have his mom and his dad to help him, and I do. That’s when he kicked it in.”
Lamson has had 22 surgeries with another scheduled for later this week, goes for physical therapy three times a week and has actually walked Athens’ home course at Stanton Farms with the cross country team.
He expects to be on the sidelines cheering on the team at its regional Oct. 31 and hopes to be a manager for the basketball team.
Lucy Lamson said it is not just the community who has come together to support the family, but also teams in the Big 8 Conference.
While at Mott’s, the teen wanted a leave to attend an Athens basketball game when his sister, Josie, was on the homecoming court.
He worked hard to meet all the criteria his doctors set and planned the surprise.
“We played our rival, Union City,” Lucy Lamson said. “They did a fundraiser for him, too. My sister was thanking everyone and then Luke rolled in in his wheelchair. and everybody just cried.”
Lamson’s basketball number has always been 13, and that number actually gave the family some comfort.
“After the accident, that number kept showing up everywhere,” his mother said. “The room he was in at one point was 13. Damon’s first gymnastics meet after the accident, he drew 13. They won a basketball game by 13.
“Players had headbands made that had 13 on them. Other teams in our conference that played our team would come in with 13 on their shirts or wristbands. At a dollar store for fundraiser stuff, the amount came to exactly $13. That was our way of knowing that God was with us and Luke would be OK.”
Lamson, Knowles and Riley Howard, all freshmen, figured they would be battling each other on the cross country team this year.
Instead, Knowles and Howard are running with Lamson cheering them on.
Although basketball is his first love, “We talked Luke into running cross country his seventh grade year, so he ran seventh and eighth grade years,” said coach Missy Hamilton, who also teaches science at the middle school.
“He’s just amazed everybody because we didn’t think he’d be back in school last year. He came back after spring break, in a wheelchair. He’s starting to walk a little bit. Now he walks the halls (with a brace on his left leg).
“I’m hoping he’ll be ready to run with us next year, and by the time he’s a junior, full time. As he works through his physical therapy, he becomes stronger and stronger.”
Damon Knowles has dedicated this cross country season to his cousin.
Asked if he thinks of Luke running beside him during meets, Damon replied, laughing and without hesitation: “Maybe behind me.”
Howard said Lamson is an inspiration to the other athletes.
“I’ve known him my whole life,” Howard said. “I was worried that he wasn’t going to make it, but I was really surprised because he’s up and walking.
“It’s inspired me to work harder, actually, because he’s not doing this right now, but he’ll be back. The team likes it when he’s there supporting us.”
John Knowles said the family has become even closer since the accident.
“There’s been a lot of great things that have come from this accident that is bigger than any one person or any one sport,” he said. “You’ve got to have bad days to appreciate the good days. Sports is a great teacher of that.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She continues to freelance for MLive.com covering mainly Kalamazoo Wings hockey and can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Luke Lamson, in bed, is surrounded by his doctor, members of the Michigan State University dance team and Sparty during his stay at Bronson Hospital. (Middle) From left, John Knowles, Damon Knowles, Lucy Lamson. (Middle below) Luke Lamson sits up as his recovery continues. (Below) Lamson played basketball during middle school. (Top and middle photos courtesy of Lamson family; head shots by Pam Shebest, basketball photo by Photography by Char.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
MHSAA.com's weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)