When asked how Eric LeGrand, former division one football player for Rutgers University, copes with his spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down, he said: “The people I’m surrounded by. I’m humbled, I see people who are not as fortunate as me.”
Seton Hall University hosted the former star athlete for Rutgers football Monday at 6 p.m. in the Walsh Gymnasium, where he was accompanied by his Kessler physical therapists Sandra “Buffy” Wojciehowski, Seton Hall alumna, and Gabriella Stiefold.
Later the three were joined by the Rutgers University Sports Medicine staff, who helped LeGrand at the time of his accident in 2010, Dr. Robert Monaco, team physician, and David McCune, director of Athletic Training Services and head football athletic trainer. This was the first time the two had ever publicly spoken about the accident.
Monaco and McCune said their main mission was to get LeGrand to relax and get him to the hospital as quickly and safely as possible, as they remembered the only murmur that was coming from the injured player’s mouth that day, “I can’t breathe.” It only took seven minutes to get LeGrand off the field.
“I really trusted these guys,” LeGrand said. “I gave them all the credit in the world.”
LeGrand recalled the worst part of the injury as not being able to breathe and having to slowly be weaned off the ventilator. He said after five weeks he was able to completely breathe on his own, which he never thought he would be able to do.
LeGrand said his first goal for his Kessler therapists was to be able to sit up on his couch and watch television if he wished, to which Stiefold pointed out is a luxury most people take for granted.
“Kessler is like a big family,” LeGrand said. “I consider them to be my best friends. I see them every day. Everyone has one mission, to get their patient better. Everyone works for one goal.”
Since his injury, LeGrand has made significant improvement at Kessler. He can now move his upper body 7 to 8 in. forward and back, which Buffy said helps a lot if he happens to hit a bump in the road; he will not be completely jolted.
LeGrand said he is 100 percent sure he will gain his mobility back.
In the past three years LeGrand has written two books, started a pilot program with Kessler to aid people suffering from spinal cord injuries and even recently spoke at the White House and met with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama.
Donations can be made for LeGrand’s cause, to aid those living with spinal cord injuries, at https://www.kintera.org/site/c.ddJFKRNoFiG/b.8470747/k.A7A0/Join_Team_LeGrand/apps/ka/sd/donorcustom.asp.
Lindsay Rittenhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.