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Originally published Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Injured WSU football player Cory Mackay hopes to be back on campus in fall

Eastlake High School graduate suffered broken back in truck accident last month.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Cory Mackay, the Washington State football player seriously injured in a truck accident in Eastern Washington on May 7, is due to go home to Redmond June 10.

But he has bigger goals in sight, among them a return to school for fall classes if his rehabilitation from a broken back allows.

"We think he'll be most happy and his recovery will be best if he's in school," his father Don said Monday. "If he lies around home, he's not going to recover as well."

Mackay, a graduate of Eastlake High School in Sammamish, lost most feeling below the waist in the accident, which occurred seven miles west of Washtucna on State Highway 26 when he fell asleep at the wheel of a small pickup as he returned home after finishing final exams. The truck went airborne and flipped.

He was taken to a hospital in the Tri-Cities and then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where surgery to fuse vertebrae was performed the next day.

Since the surgery, Mackay has been doing rehabilitation. He had just completed his first year at WSU, having redshirted as a defensive end.

"He has to wear this body cast for about two more months after he gets home," his father said. "Anytime he's up above 30 degrees [of body incline], he has to put that on first. That supports the spine so the weight of the upper body doesn't compress the repairs.

"It's not a fun thing for him to wear. He says, 'I look like a Ninja turtle.' "

The senior Mackay called his son's return home "phase two" of his rehabilitation, followed by a return to the hospital.

"When he gets that [body cast] off, he goes back up for phase three, a couple of weeks for advance therapy," Don Mackay said.

Cory Mackay's spinal cord wasn't significantly damaged, but was swollen. Doctors have told his father a long-term prognosis likely can't be made until the swelling subsides and Mackay progresses through rehabilitation.

"Basically, it takes anywhere from three months to a year for all that to settle down," Don Mackay said. "Then hopefully, he'll be able to channel it down and get things working."

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WSU begins classes in late August, by which time the Mackays hope Cory will be able to return to school.

"If he's ready, then we definitely are going to get him over there," Don Mackay said. "It'll just be finding a suitable habitat. If that doesn't work, he'll make it for the winter semester, for sure."

Meanwhile, Mackay called "overwhelming" the response of his son's former teammates and opponents, old friends and current and former coaches.

"Coaches we don't even know are showing up," Mackay said. "And his core group of friends is here all the time with him. The letters and cards just keep coming in. It's kind of astounding to us.

"It's the thoughtfulness and kindness of people we don't even know. It sure has affected our lives."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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