Doing it for T.J.: How hydrocephalus gives Nixon perspective


Eric Bakke/Associated Press

When the pads come off, Taurean Nixon keeps doing the work. Discover his and other NFL players' charitable causes in their own words at The Players' Tribune as part of a special *My Cause My Cleats collaboration with NFL Media.*

Below is an excerpt from what can only be described as a miraculous story about Nixon's stepbrother's fight with hydrocephalus. For Nixon's full story visit The Players' Tribune.

The first time I heard the word was Jan. 6, 2012.

I was a sophomore at Memphis and had gone home to Baton Rouge, La., for winter break for what I thought would be a joyous occasion: My stepmom had given birth to a baby boy. His name was T.J., and I couldn't wait to lay my eyes on him.

But when I arrived at the hospital a few hours after he was born (I wanted to give my stepmom and my dad some space) and met my dad in the lobby, I could tell something was up. He wasn't smiling the way I thought he would be - the glimmer in his eyes wasn't there. He looked nervous.

"It's been a crazy morning," he said. "T.J. was born with a condition called hydrocephalus."

Hydro what? I've never heard of that.

"We don't really know what it means right now," he continued. "We're still finding out how serious this is. But come and see him."

As we wound through the maze of hallways on our way to the neonatal intensive care unit, I asked my dad all sorts of questions. But he didn't have any answers. His thoughts were jumbled up. I couldn't imagine the stress - his brand new baby had been immediately taken away from him and my stepmom. All they could do was hope and pray.

When we arrived at the NICU and I got my first glimpse of T.J. through the glass ... man, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I literally couldn't believe it.

"Wait ... what is ... I've never seen anything like that before, Dad."

T.J.'s head looked two times the size of his body. Legit. Two times. I was speechless. My dad turned to me.

"I know, T. I know." There was sadness in his voice. "He's got fluid on his brain. They're probably going to need to drain it somehow. But we don't really know much else."

As we hurried back to my stepmom's room, I couldn't get the image of my baby brother - his body connected to monitors by all these tubes - out of my head. How could this have happened to him? My dad and stepmom were both healthy. It just didn't make any sense.

When I saw my stepmom lying in her hospital bed, all these emotions hit me. I went over to hug her, and when I saw the look in her eyes, I was determined to figure out what was going on. I sat down in a chair in the corner of the room. I pulled out my cellphone and, with the screen just inches away from my face, opened up my browser and started typing.

H-y-d-r-o-c-e-p-h-a-l-u-s.

The results that popped up included phrases like cerebrospinal fluid, communicating and noncommunicating hydrocephalus and shunt system. I didn't spend enough time reading to really understand what they meant because I was scanning everything so quickly.

My eyes only stopped at one word:

Fatal.

For more stories of inspiration and courage from NFL players, visit The Players' Tribune for the full series of My Cause My Cleats features.

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