By Karen Flores, Asst. Features Editor
On March 20, the Manhattan College women’s softball team recognized teammate Jessie Rising’s older brother, Michael Rising, during a pregame ceremony to show solidarity during brain injury awareness month. Michael threw the ceremonial first pitch to Jessie before the first of two games against the Wagner Seahawks.
Head coach Cat Clifford came up with the idea and wanted to celebrate Michael’s recovery after his accident.
“With him [Michael] making so much progress starting to walk in the fall, it’s just something that we thought would be a nice idea. We put it through all the channels and got the approval,” Clifford said.
Rising and her family loved the idea and everything was put into motion to prepare for the special day.
Jessie Rising, senior biology major and pitcher for the MC softball team, spoke about her brother’s accident. According to Rising, a firework misfired and hit her older brother Michael Rising’s hands during a July 4 celebration in 2020.
His head took the brunt of the impact and rising underwent a 12-hour surgery where they removed half of his skull due to brain swelling. He remained on life support throughout the night and spent two weeks unconscious. When they woke him up two weeks after the incident, they found he had a brain bleed. Rising went into another surgery which left him bed ridden for 28 days.
“They said that the only reason he lived was because his body had that [extra] muscle to eat because fat goes first, or else he would have gotten organ failure,” Jessie Rising said.
Michael, who was formerly a bodybuilder, found himself in a rehabilitation center for eight weeks in a minimally conscious state.
“He made tiny gains but by the time he left he was able to swallow food,” Jessie Rising said. “He was learning how to move his tongue and how to do a peace sign, stuff like that. And now he walks with a cane. He remembers everything. You know, he is himself completely, which is a miracle in and of itself.”
Michael Rising said that being given the chance to throw the ceremonial pitch to his sister is something that he is very thankful for and made him very happy.
“I was very excited. I was really nervous though. I’m honored,” Jessie Rising said. “Though his recovery has been going well, he said that it’s ‘a lot and a lot of work’.”
Michael said he hopes students and people who saw him pitch to Jessie that “nothing is impossible.”
Michael and Jessie’s parents, Paul and Tracy Rising, said that they were extremely humbled and grateful to Coach Cat and Manhattan College for allowing their son and daughter to have that special moment together.
“It was very emotional in the sense that everyone could see what Michael worked hard for and the pride that Jessie felt,” said Paul Rising. “Their bond since they were young has been incredible. So I think it was a lot of emotions being very proud of them both. For her hard work to be where she was and his hard work to get where he’s gotten, you know, with the injury, to see him come together again was really exciting.”
Tracy Rising said that one of the biggest things in their family is “faith over fear” and that it is something that people should keep in mind.
Paul Rising said that this accident created a different type of bond between the already close knit family.
“It was a different type of bond where it wasn’t just love and respect and fun to be around. It was the need for each other to get through it. So I think it just bonded us in a mannerism that we’d never been bonded to before,” Paul Rising said.
Mr. and Mrs. Rising were extremely grateful to the MC softball team, Wagner team and everyone else who showed their support to Michael as he was throwing the pitch.
“I walked up with Michael and you know, seeing our team, you’re, you know, a lot of them knew Michael, but a lot of them didn’t and to see the support from our team alone was was breathtaking, but to see the amount of girls on the other team who had never even met Michael, and to see the support the tears, the smiles was just, you know, over the top it was it was very humbling,” Paul Rising said.
Clifford was excited when she saw Jessie and Michael together on the field.
“They’re such a close family,” Clifford said. “I was just happy to be a part of it and be able to see him and I’m just so proud of them. My hope for her is that she always understands that we’re [her and the softball team] always in her corner regardless of what it is and this was a really special thing for their family to be able to do.”
Jessie and her family hope students can see that despite hard times, they can overcome and fight as long as they have support and are determined to keep going.
“Support simply from family, friends, all those things, you’ve got to utilize,” Paul Rising said “You can’t just go rogue on your own and think that you’re going to overcome form. I mean, the battles that you’re going to go through are meant for you to rely on other people. They’re not meant for you to fight alone.”
“I’m just super thankful to my team, my coaches, and Manhattan in general,” Jessie Rising said. “They’ve been really supportive. I mean, to let me be there for my family as much as I have been, but also juggling softball and school like it could have been really bad for me and I would have had to make a lot more harder choices. They’ve been super supportive, obviously. And it was an honor and something that he and I will both remember forever.”