"A routine body-check paralyzed MBA student Sean Gjos. Now his attitude and friends help him through.
The worst part is in the morning, when Sean Gjos emerges from the forgiving fog of sleep and is suddenly jolted back to reality.
He remembers that his life, which had been progressing so smoothly, changed irrevocably in an instant because of a freak accident in a hockey game. He remembers that he can't walk and that because he hasn't gotten a car with hand controls, he's dependent on friends to get to doctors' appointments and classes at UCLA's Anderson School, where he will receive his MBA on June 18.
Not that he can ever completely forget. But first thing every morning, he is reminded anew of the March 3 accident that crushed his 11th thoracic vertebra and damaged his spinal cord, leaving him without use of his legs and with little feeling below his waist.
"I have to deal with reality all over again," he said softly. "Sometimes that takes a split second, sometimes that takes an hour." There are so many cruelties in this, so many reasons he could lament the unfairness of fate. Friends say he has maintained a remarkably positive outlook, but it isn't easy. It can't be.
Sitting in his wheelchair in the living room of his airy Santa Monica apartment - he had to leave his old place because he couldn't negotiate its multilevel layout - Gjos constantly fidgets, turning the chair this way and that, lifting the front wheels to tilt the chair at a precarious angle. When his restlessness was pointed out, he laughed.
"I was never very good at sitting," he said. "Now I'm sitting all the time. I always used to be moving around."
Gjos (pronounced Joss) isn't a professional athlete. Nor was he a scholarship athlete. He paid to play club hockey for UCLA, joining an enthusiastic group of undergrads and graduate students who shell out more than $500 each for the privledge of skating at Pickwick Arena in Burbank before tiny crowds at odd hours in the middle of the week.
He didn't even play last season, his first at the Anderson School after graduating from Brown University with a degree in international relations and spending several years in investment banking. Gjos, 28, figured he was too busy with his MBA work, but love for the game he had played since his childhood on Manitoulin Island, Canada drew him back this season.
"He came in and fit in really great," teammate Zackary Rynew said.
The play that changed Gjos' life appeared innocuous, a routine hit in a game against Life College of Marietta, Ga., in the first game of the national club championship tournament in Salt Lake City. There was no sickening thud, just a collision that sent him sliding back-first into the boards.
"He had the puck and he was passing it. It looked like he wasn't expecting to get hit," said Rynew, a graduate student in architecture. "It seemed pretty square and pretty clean. It didn't seem like he fell that hard. I didn't see him hit the ice. Everyone watching didn't even follow the hit because it just looked so routine.
"I was on the bench and we had been laughing, then we realized something bad had happened. Next Page
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