Najera recovering from head injury

Bobcats veteran forward Eduardo Najera doesn’t look like a
player who just had major surgery to on his skull two weeks
ago.

The indentation in his forehead is no longer visible.

And there’s no visible scar from the surgery performed by Dr.
Daniel Spagnoli from Charlotte, who cut Najera from ear-to-ear
across the top of his head in order to peel back the skin on his
face and repair the shattered bones beneath it.

Najera walked away with 12 screws and a mesh screen inserted in
his forehead after taking an elbow to the head from Milwaukee’s Jon
Brockman during a game on April 6.

”The doctor did an amazing job – didn’t even touch my hair,”
Najera said with a laugh. ”My first question was, `Are you going
to shave my head?’ He’s like `Don’t worry about it, the hair will
stay.’ I couldn’t believe the new technology.

”They opened my whole head, pulled my face out and fixed it.
Obviously there were a lot of loose pieces they had to put back
together like a puzzle, but they did an amazing job.”

Then Najera smiled and quipped, ”I feel like he did a facelift
– not even any wrinkles.”

Najera, 35, can joke about it now.

He even said he plans on playing a 12th year in the NBA next
season.

But the injury was certainly no laughing matter when Brockman’s
elbow came crashing into Najera’s forehead while Najera was trying
to attempt a shot. As Najera went up, Brockman’s elbow came down.
The two collided and Najera immediately went to the ground holding
his head.

”Initially I didn’t think he was hurt as bad as he was,”
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. ”He came off the court and I think
there was a little blood, but I said, `He’ll be ok.’ And then he
was stumbling around and I thought oh my God, something is really
wrong. He’s really bad off.”

Bobcats trainer Steve Stricker said he knew right away there was
a problem.

He quickly noticed the indentation in Najera’s head and rushed
him to an area hospital.

”I wanted to take a shower and he said, `No, you’re going
straight to the hospital,”’ Najera said. ”They wouldn’t let me
see it… They didn’t really tell me until I got back to Charlotte
that the fracture was quite so big. It shattered my forehead.”

Najera’s teammates said his head looked like a car that had been
involved in a fender bender – it caved in.

Guard Matt Carroll said he’d never seen anything like it.

”I looked at it and you could tell his head was going in,”
Carroll said. ”There was this big indent in his forehead. I was
like, that just didn’t look right. You knew something wasn’t
right.”

Najera would fly home with the team later that night, but
underwent major surgery that lasted several hours the following
day.

He said doctors told him he was fortunate he didn’t suffer any
brain damage.

There are two layers bone guarding the brain.

The exterior one in Najera’s head shattered, while the softer
inside one somehow remained intact preventing serious brain
damage.

Najera said he feels ”lucky” the injury wasn’t more
serious.

”Thank God there was no (brain) injury,” Najera said. ”It was
close to the brain, but thanks to my big forehead it didn’t get to
it.”

Najera can begin exercising in about four weeks, but has to
avoid any contact with his head for a few months. He plans to play
next season, although it’s unclear where. His contract with the
Bobcats is up after the season and he’ll be a free agent.

”I’m a little disappointed he didn’t break his elbow,” Najera
joked of the collision with Brockman.

Najera said the days following the surgery were as painful as
the injury itself.

Sneezing, or any type of jarring movement, sent bolts of pain
through his head. But he’s feeling almost back to normal.

”I am lucky,” Najera said. ”It could have been a lot worse.
The reality is it was a freaky injury. I am thankful that nothing
happened to my brain.”