It was supposed to be a normal night after school for Ellender High School senior athlete Kameron Adkins on Sept. 18.
He had just returned home after football practice with the Patriots.
While he waited for his parents to bring back a pizza for dinner that night, Adkins walked outside of his house to hang out with his best friend and teammate Isaiah Smith around 8 p.m.
“We were talking about football practice,” Adkins said. “I had a good practice that day. I felt normal. I had a good week. We had just played Terrebonne. I was getting ready for H.L. Bourgeois.”
Then his life changed suddenly moments later. He recalled the moments when he went through a serious and unexpected health emergency.
“My phone had fell out of my hand and that's when I had a stroke,” Adkins said. “My whole right side of my body was numb. I couldn't feel nothing. I couldn't talk. None of that.”
Adkins, a previously healthy 17-year-old athlete who never experienced any serious health issues before that moment, felt his body go limp.
“I fell forward and dropped to the ground,” Adkins said. “My friend (Smith) tried to pick me up and I fell again.”
Smith immediately knew something was wrong.
“He dropped his phone twice,” Smith said. “He dropped his phone, picked it up and dropped it again. He fell down. He couldn't talk or get up. It was shocking. I didn't expect it. We weren't ready for nothing like that. It was real terrifying.”
As he panicked to help his friend, Smith called Kameron Adkins' parents — Larry and Sesily Adkins, who were out buying pizza for dinner when their son had his stroke.
“We were together maybe 30 minutes prior to the stroke happening,” Sesily said. “He was fine before it happened. We were listening to music. We were talking. We left to go get a pizza, and about 15 minutes later, his friend called and said something wasn't right.”
Sesily said she didn't know the severity of the situation until Smith sent her a FaceTime video of Kameron laying motionless on the front lawn of their home. She noticed he was sweating profusely and experiencing other problems.
“When he (Smith) FaceTimed me, I saw Kam was stretched out on the ground,” Sesily said. “I knew something was wrong. We rushed to call 911. Larry was inside the pizza place. I was leaving him at Pizza Hut because in that moment I was just trying to get home.”
Kameron was immediately rushed to a local hospital before being airlifted to Ochsner hospital in New Orleans. He had surgery for a blood clot on the right side of his brain. Doctors also implanted a loop recorder into his chest, which is a heart recording device that will monitor his heartbeat for the next three years.
After two hours, Kameron was brought out of surgery and got to see his parents waiting in the hospital room. Larry Adkins recalled his first conversation with his son after surgery.
“He looked up at me,” Larry said. “I said, 'What's up dude. You all right?' He put his hands up. I said, 'That's good he got movement.' The funny thing about it was once he put his hands up, he shook my hand and he said 'Dad, I'm playing Friday.' I put his hands back down and said, 'Dude just rest.'”
Larry and Sesily said doctors ran many different tests on their son but could not determine an exact reason for the stroke.
“It was a humbling experience for all of us,” Sesily said. “He is somebody who was fit and doing the normal things teens do. He was hardly ever sick. For it to happen out the blue on a normal day when it happened was a shock.”
Kameron spent the next week in the hospital recovering from his stroke. He and his family received tons of support over social media. His coaches at Ellender visited him and he received letters of encouragement from his classmates and teammates.
Through it all, Kameron said the only thing he could think about was if he would ever have a chance to play football again.
“The whole right side of my body was kind of weak,” Kameron said. “I really couldn't do anything. I couldn't go anywhere. I was in bed all day. After I had the stroke, I was thinking if I could play Friday against H.L. but I couldn't.”
After being released from the hospital, Kameron needed physical therapy to get strength back on the right side of his body.
Although her son wanted to return to school and playing football, Sesily said they constantly had to remind him to take it slow.
“It was a struggle mentally and physically to keep him focused and continuing on. We had a lot of support,” Sesily said. “Football was the main focus and I had to try to get him past that. It wasn't just about the football. He could've died. He could've been handicapped and here you are. You're alive and well. We thank God.”
Kameron spent the next few weeks at home recovering. His parents noticed how depressed he was and tried their best to keep his spirits up.
“I was feeling down after I caught my stroke,” Kameron said. “I thought it was over and that I can't play football no more. My daddy was just telling me it's not over. Keep pushing.”
“I just tried to stay on him,” Larry mentioned. “He was looking forward to his whole senior year. When that happens, it felt like everything was over.”
While he dealt with depression, Sesily said she had to keep Kameron focused on his school work.
“It was like a roller coaster up and down trying to bring him back to a good state of mind because he wasn't there,” Sesily said. “I just pushed him. I went from teacher to teacher and class to class. I was on him. I wanted not just me to stay on him but his classmates, teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and everybody to stay on him to keep him encouraged to finish.”
Ellender head football coach Jesse Turner, an assistant at the time, said everyone at school was heartbroken when they learned about Kameron's stroke and prayed for him daily.
“It was very tough for us,” Turner said. “Kam was always an outgoing person. He gets along with everybody. He never had any issues on or off the field with anything. It was devastating to hear that being it was his senior year.”
Kameron said his teammates support provided encouragement. He was able to attend Ellender's homecoming pep rally last year and talk with his teammates again.
“They were telling me, 'We need you,'” Kameron said. “I was like a big impact on the team. They were missing me. They were there for me. They were writing notes in the hospital and telling me what's up.”
As his health improved and his strength returned, doctors later cleared Kameron to return to playing football in the final weeks of his senior season. He still needed the approval of his parents before returning.
“We prayed about it,” Larry said. “We talked about it. He has his whole life ahead of him. We can't live in fear. We trust in God. We put Him first. That's what we've got to do. We made a decision to let him play.”
Kameron, who played receiver and safety, said he was able to return to action for two games last year. He played only one half against Assumption High and played all four quarters during the season finale against South Terrebonne.
Kameron said he struggled at times with fatigue and headaches while playing, but he still went out and gave it his all. His biggest play was making a 40-yard catch against South Terrebonne.
“It felt good to make that catch,” Kameron said. “The crowd was just cheering for me. I was just happy. I got to play again. God gave me a second chance to just play.”
Larry said Kameron didn't look like the football player he once was but still managed to get back out there and play.
“You can tell his body had been through so much,” Larry said. “His body was just worn out. I think it was just the mental part of him just touching the field again. He just wanted to be out there again.”
Even if he wasn't at his best, Kameron said it was worth every moment getting to play again. He said there are no other lasting implications from the stroke.
“I know what I could do on the football field,” Kameron said. “I know what my potential is. I know I could just take it to the next level. I fell in love with the game. I've been playing it since I was 3.”
Smith said every Ellender player was inspired to play for Kameron. When they saw him back on the sidelines, it just fired them up.
“It showed that he was a soldier,” Smith said. “He wanted to get back on the field. He was trying to go play. It was his last season. He wasn't going to let anything stop him.
Kameron thanked his coaches and teammates, especially Smith for always being there. He said Smith saved his life when he first had his stroke and he will be forever thankful for him.
“I'm very blessed. God gave me a second chance,” Kameron said. “I wouldn't be talking to you today if it wouldn't be for (Smith). He's just been there since Day 1. We hang out every day. We talk every day. We play the game every day. He comes to my house every day. That's my best friend.”
Now Kameron is getting ready to graduate from Ellender this month and attend college at Grambling State University. He plans to walk-on for the Tigers football team.
“I'm hoping to make the team and just fight for a spot,” Kameron said. “I have to work hard. I just have to do my thing at practice, in the weight room and everything.”
Kameron's parents said they will support him every step of the way as he ventures into the next chapter of his life.
“After all that he been through, I can say that I'm very proud of him,” Larry said. “He overcame a lot of stuff. He was dealing with a lot of things. He's been through a lot, but he has graduation coming up and he's going to college. It's a proud moment.”
Sesily said she is just blessed to see her son getting a second chance at a normal life. She thanked everyone who has supported him along the way.
“It's been a trial,” Sesily said. “I told him you can't have a testimony without a test. You have to keep pushing. You can't tell people a story if you haven't been through something. I'm just glad that he is in a good state and going on to school. That's all I can be thankful for.”
Kameron has been training with his uncle, Darrell Murry, who has been helping him work out to prepare for college.
Murry said the goal is to help him get in top shape to showcase his talents for college coaches. Murry said Kameron has worked hard every day to get a shot at continuing his dream to play college football.
“It's awesome to see him be able to come back from something so tragic,” Murry said. “It takes a strong kid to come back with his type of determination to get back on the field after having a stroke. He is a living testimony of how good God is. We have been working over the last month getting them ready for college. It's a long process and he says he willing to do whatever it takes and at the end of the day that's all you can ask for.”
Turner said he is confident that Kameron will make the most of his opportunity at Grambling.
“Overcoming everything that he has, I think he can do anything he sets his mind to do,” Turner said. “Football is something that he always loved to do. He would do anything to get back on that field. If any person could do it, Kam could do it. It's just the way he carries himself. It's the way he approaches things. It's inspiring to see. Football is his passion and his love. He just has a will to play.”
Kameron, who plans to major in business and computer technology at Grambling, said going through the stroke has taught him a valuable lesson about life.
“Just don't take nothing for granted. If you're a football player, you just have to play every game to your full potential,” Kameron said. “You just never know what can happen at any moment. I didn't know I was going to catch a stroke. I had a good practice that day (Sept 18). I just went down and the next thing you know I'm waking up in a hospital.”
Now he wants to encourage other athletes to always keep their faith when dealing through adversity.
“No matter what you have to go through, just keep pushing and keep fighting,” Kameron said. “Work out every day. Train your body right. Eat right. Drink right. Just get better each and every day.”