This Thanksgiving is one that Tori Hayden, mother of University of Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, will never forget.
Tori Hayden told FOX 26 Sports she and her son were able to spend a quiet Thanksgiving together and she could not be more thankful.
During practice on Nov. 6 D.J. Hayden suffered a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
UH team physician Dr. Walter Lowe said later that injuries like that are 95 percent fatal and that everything had to happen just right to save D.J. Hayden's life.
"It's special because my son is still here with me and I am so thankful to God number one," Tori Hayden said. "I'm thankful for (UH head athletics trainer) Mike O'Shea and his team of trainers. I'm thankful for the EMS.
"I'm thankful for the trauma team here at Memorial Hermann and I'm just so thankful he is just still here with me."
Tori Hayden said initially she had a tough time understanding what her son was going through.
"The early moments, I wasn't quite sure the extent or how serious the injury was," Tori Hayden said. "I wasn't really sure until after surgery when they came out and told us exactly what it was.
"My first reaction was that I just wanted to break down and cry and just thank the Lord that he did not take him and that he was in his bosom and he took care of him.
While I was sitting there waiting, I was just praying 'please let him be okay.' "
And Tori Hayden said it was not to easy for her when she learned that 95 percent of the time those who suffer injuries like her son do not survive
"I don't think it really hit me when they said it because he was here, he pulled through it," Tori Hayden said.
"I think it hit me a couple of days later and I thought 'wow I could have lost my son. This has been the hardest experience I've ever had in my whole entire life. There are just no words. I can't explain it."
Tori Hayden said she has already had the chance to thank O'Shea who has checked in on her son a number of times since the injury.
"I gave him the biggest hug and the biggest kiss," Tori Hayden said. "Just thanked him over and over and over, because I am just so grateful to him because he's the one that started the chain reaction.
"I think God put everybody in place at the right time for D.J. to be saved."
Dr. Lowe said it will take about a year for D.J. Hayden to recover and when he does his mother knows D.J. will want to play football again.
"That's going to be very, very hard," Tori Hayden said. "Me as a mother I really don't want him to go back out there, but I know my son. He's a fighter and I know he's going to overcome this.
"I'm really going to have to put in God's hands. He's a smart young man. I think he knows his limitations. I think he's going to do what's best for him."
Meanwhile, D.J. Hayden, who was initially released from the hospital on Nov. 12, is expected to get out of Memorial Hermann Hospital on Saturday where he has spent the past week because of issues unrelated to the injury according to his mother.
And if D.J. gets out of the hospital in time, Tori Hayden said her son would like to join his teammates on UH Senior Day for the final game of the year against Tulane at Robertson Stadium.
"We are planning to go out there with the seniors," Tori Hayden said. "We won't know for sure until (Saturday). It depends on when they release him.
"He's very strong willed. He loves his team. He loves his teammates and he's going to want to be there with them."
Tori Hayden said it will mean a lot to her son to be with the Cougars one final time at the last game ever at Robertson Stadium, which is going to be demolished.
"That would be so awesome." Tori Hayden said. "He's been there for the last two years and they grew as a family, and to go out on senior day with the rest of his teammates that would be so special for him."
Tori Hayden has a message for everyone connected to the University of Houston.
"I would like to say thank you for all of the love, all the support, all the well-wishes, all of the prayers," Tori Hayden said. "It made me realize how the Cougar Nation is one big happy family and they care.
"They cared about his well-being and I'm just so appreciative of that."