Junior Travis Barfield made honorary team captain

Barfield works to recover, rejoins teammates on the field


Cooper Avery

Smiling gleefully — Junior Travis Barfield sits on the football field for a photo. Barfield led the varsity football team onto the field Sept. 9 as the game’s honorary captain. Barfield played on the team before his heart stopped in January while he was out for a run.

By Trey Hulse, Assistant Sports Editor

It was a Friday night and junior Travis Barfield was back on the field in his football jersey, the night’s honorary captain headed out for the coin toss.

For Barfield, it was a chance to celebrate a year in which he went from a healthy 15-year-old football player to patient doctors were unsure of his survival. In between have been big moments of beating the odds — saying his first words and taking steps. And as LHS took on Shawnee Mission North on Sept. 9, Barfield’s former teammates reached out to make sure he was still a part of the program.

“It was very emotional,” football coach Dirk Wedd said. “A football game is pretty intense, but I don’t think there was a dry eye amongst the kids, including the coaches, including the head coach especially. I know what Travis means to our football team, and I know what football means to Travis, too.”

It was the players who decided to honor Barfield, team captain Jacob Unruh said.

“It’s a good reminder that he still is a part of this team, that he is going to get better, and he is still the same person even in that wheelchair he’s in right now,” Unruh said.

On Jan. 3, Barfield collapsed during a run, just around the corner from his house. Paramedics made several attempts to revive Barfield, whose heart had stopped when he had a heart attack. With oxygen cut off from his brain, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and was left in a coma. The doctor told his dad, Wesley Barfield, that he expected total destruction in the brain. But the doctor was shocked there was still activity.

Eight days into his coma, Barfield opened his eyes but couldn’t see. The next few months were, “just highway, going back and forth to the hospital,” Travis’ brother, Isiah Barfield said.

A couple days after coming home, he uttered his first words.

“I went in his room after I had gotten him down and I was just talking, and I said, ‘Travis, are you still awake?’ and he said ‘Yes,’” Wesley Barfield recalled.

His dad was shocked.

“Then I said ‘Are you OK?’ and he said, ‘Yes daddy, what happened?’ so I said ‘Daddy don’t know what happened. You may be the only one to ever tell what happened,’ ” his dad recalled.

“After that, Travis said, ‘Where am I?’ and I said, ‘You are at home. Can you see?’ he said ‘No daddy, all I see is darkness.’”

Barfield didn’t start seeing until around May. Throughout, he’s handled the setbacks with grace, his dad said.

“The thing about him telling me that he could not see was just the idea of him telling me that and handling it,” Wesley Barfield said. “If I woke up one morning and couldn’t see, I would cry like a baby. But that wasn’t his attitude. He accepted not being able to see at that moment.”

Travis isn’t going through tests anymore, but is working on speech and movement.

“His athleticism should help him be able to walk,” Isiah Barfield said.

Travis’ retired father, Wesley Barfield, helps him to travel and navigate daily life. Yet his friendships remains important to him.

Prepping — Travis Barfield is helped by paraprofessional, Amber Raines, before his photo is taken.
Cooper Avery
Prepping — Travis Barfield is helped by paraprofessional, Amber Raines, before his photo is taken.

“When his friends call him or come by to see him, he just lights up,” Wesley Barfield said. “He is just so happy to see them.”

Senior Trey Moore, who also plays football, said the bond of friendship remains important.

“We’ve known him since we were freshman and sophomores, and we played with him and we connect with him on that level and we also connect with him on a brotherhood level because he is our brother and we treat him like our own,” Moore said. “We’re just very close to him, and we still treat him the same.”

Friends and family are grateful Barfield survived and that he is making progress.

“Everything he has done has been a miracle and a shock,” Wesley Barfield said.

Celebrating that progress was a key part of making Barfield honorary captain of the football team.

“I just think it was a cool moment where a lot of people were of the opinion that football is all about aggressiveness and physicality and all that, but inside all those kids there’s a heart that beats and they have feelings, and I just felt like it was one the coolest moments I’ve ever experienced at LHS,” Wedd said.