Daily Bruin, June 1999
Head Above Ice
by Pauline Vu

If you were to ask Sean Gjos about his accident, you'd find there's a lot he could tell you.

He could tell you how he ended up on the bad side of a routine body check that sent him flying into the boards.

He could tell you how, as he lay helplessly on the ice, he just kept wishing the pain in his back would end.

And he could tell you how, as the numbness swept from his toes to his waist, he was very, very scared.

"I really don't remember what I was thinking - it was a combination of fear and wanting the pain to go away," Gjos said.

The memories don't end there. There was the quiet solemnity of his UCLA teammates. The six-hour surgery to attempt to fix his fractured vertebrae. The surprise he felt when the doctors told him his chances of ever walking again were less than 5 percent.

And his immediate determination to beat those odds.

"I felt like I had a challenge," Gjos said. "I wanted to prove them wrong, and I wanted to do everything that was in my power to rehabilitate, to get back on my feet."

The accident is a tragic end to an otherwise incredible season for UCLA's club hockey team (25-3).

For the first time ever, the Bruins won the Pac-8 title and continued into postseason play. It was in the first national championship game in March against Life University, the eventual club hockey national champions, that Gjos, a defenseman, was injured.

"He's a very good hockey player, and one of the leaders on the team," said forward Ralph Vogel of Gjos, a defenseman, adding that the 1998-99 team is the best team UCLA has ever fielded.

So when they saw Gjos go down against Life, the team was "stunned, unsure and hoping for the best," Vogel said.

"These guys are people like myself, they just love to play the game. For something that serious to happen was quite a shock to them," Gjos said.

As soon as the game ended, the team headed for the hospital. They waited four hours in the visitor's room before learning Gjos was going into surgery, and then, individually, headed in to see him before the surgery.

"The players gave him encouragement, their best wishes and their prayers," Vogel said.

But after the surgery, Gjos, a former undergraduate and hockey player at Brown University and currently a graduate student at The Anderson School at UCLA, learned of his bleak condition - and began handling it with a dignity that continues to surprise his friends.

"You're friends with someone, and you like and respect them, but then something like this happens - my respect and admiration for Sean just grew," said Jimmy Young, Gjos' roommate at the time of the accident and a fellow Anderson School student.

"I was expecting him at one point to break down, and he just hasn't. He has never said, 'Why me?'" Vogel said. "He's never felt sorry for himself." Next Page

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