Suwannee Democrat


January 27, 2014

McCray’s night: SHS basketball team manager suits up for very memorable night

Live Oak —

A promise was kept Saturday night at the Suwannee High School gym; a promise that filled the hearts of high school basketball players and those that filled the court side and stands as SHS basketball team manager Carl “CJ” McCray Jr. stepped on the court in the last minute of the game to help secure the win against Hamilton County.

What’s memorable about this and what makes it such an awe-inspiring story is that CJ is a special-needs teen. 

On June 28, 1996, at the age of 11 months, CJ was admitted to the hospital with viral meningitis, followed quickly by a diagnosis of life-threatening hydrocephalus (pockets of fluid within the brain). Doctors asked his mother, Deborah Petersen, for permission to insert an emergency drainage tube to relieve the rapidly increasing pressure. During this procedure, CJ experienced complete cardiac arrest. Surgeons later told his mom they had lost him on the table.

Miracles happen every day and on that night, CJ was revived. Five days later he received a life-saving procedure to insert a shunt which redirects the fluid into the body so it can be reabsorbed.  In the near 18 years that have since passed, CJ has come through many obstacles and procedures including emergency room visits, corrective surgery for his eyes and tubes placed in his ears.  The shunt was replaced in a very painful procedure in 2011. He has undergone speech, neurologic and physical therapies and battles sleep apnea. But after hearing all this, you simply have to meet the joyful young man that most call “CJ.”

“He has a heart of gold. He's my miracle child and I thank God daily for keeping him on this earth with me,” said Petersen. “I am grateful for all the people who help me with him and love him just as much as I do.”  

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