Former student-athlete on the road to recovery

Jamal Malone (Courtesy of Yolanda Malone)

Joe McHale

The crack of a fist hitting a face breaks the peace of dusk at the Promenade Apartments in Mission Viejo.

Jamal Malone, now 22, falls to the ground, slamming his head against the pavement. It nearly ends his life.
On the morning of Sept. 23, 2007, Malone had his life forever changed in an instant. The fight between Malone and former teammates on the Saddleback College football team forced doctors at Mission Hospital to put Malone into a medical induced comma in an attempt to save his life. Two-and-a-half weeks later, on Oct. 10, Malone awoke from his comma, his surgically repaired brain was already thinking critically.

“I woke up to a nurse putting an IV in my right arm, and I said ‘What are you doing? Can I have it in my left arm.’ Because I’m right handed,” Malone said.

After Jamal started feeling better, his next mission was to get out of the hospital as soon as possible.

“They (the nurses) said I was an escape artist,” he said.
On Nov. 17, Malone was relocated to Omaha Neb. to be with his family and undergo rehab at Quality Living Inc. From Dec. 1 to Dec. 22, QLI was his home; however, like the hospital bed, Malone felt uncomfortable in this new place.

“My mission was to get out,” he said. “It was winter, it was cold, I hated being locked up in this place.”

Malone’s desire was to go back to the West Coast. He stayed at his parent’s house in Omaha until Feb. 18, 2008. From there, Malone went back to what he calls “home” in Calif.

Back in Calif., Malone started to feel like normal. He went back to school at Saddleback, started working again, and got back into what arguably got him into the hospital in the first place, drinking and partying.  
Malone planned on staying in Calif. by moving to San Diego with his friend Evan Handa. But his still injured body had other plans. Due to repeated neglect of his medication, Malone’s body finally shut down in July of 2008, resulting in a seizure.

“I wasn’t done rehabbing but I thought I was,” he said. “It’s the cockiness over the fact that your bodies not ready yet, that was probably my biggest downfall. I have no problem admitting my faults.”

As a result of the seizure, Malone moved back to Omaha, where he permanently lives now. Malone’s road to recovery has been a successful one. Jamal’s mother, Yolanda Malone, credits the staff at Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Mission Hospital for the successful aid in her son’s road to recovery.

“The team at the SICU at Mission were incredible,” she said. “If there’s one thing that got us were we are today, it’s that program.”

Despite the traumatic event in Malone’s life, his determination continues from the days in the SICU and QLI as he looks to receive an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts soon. After Community College, he looks to double major, pursuing both a Psychology and Culinary Arts degree. Malone believes nothing can stop him from accomplishing his goal’s, which include owning a restaurant, getting into film, and writing a book, which he has already started.

“It makes you think that nothing’s impossible that can happen,” he said. “You can get hurt really badly but you can still be good at anything.”
Malone has impressed many people in his life, and influenced them as well. His younger sister, Zoe, 14, dreamed of going into law. However, after her big brother’s injury, everything changed. She now wishes to become a brain surgeon.

“We are overly thankful and extremely blessed as a family,” Yolanda said. “I can’t explain how happy and excited the family is for him.”
After battling for his life for nearly three weeks, Malone no longer takes it for granted. He will continue to defy the odds, live life to the fullest, and never quit.
“I don’t stop till I’m dead,” he said. “And I’m not dead yet.”