Meet Brad Gillen
An active teen, Brad Gillen grew up playing soccer, basketball, and baseball—but his life’s passion is golf. He had been in talks with Bentley University to play on their team. His parents and older sister are Bentley Falcons, and it sounded like a perfect fit. Then, at the end of his junior year in high school, Brad dove from the shallow to deep end of his backyard pool, hit his head, and became paralyzed.
As soon as Brad’s friends realized that something was wrong, they pulled him to safety in the shallow end. His friend called an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Eight days later, with a diagnosis of central cord syndrome resulting from a condition of spinal stenosis—a preexisting condition brought to light by the accident—Brad was heading to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston to work on his recovery. Brad had regained feeling in his legs but could barely move.
As soon as they arrived at Spaulding, Brad’s mom, Gina, said it felt like a weight was lifted off their shoulders. Brad was placed in the “Bruschi room” at Spaulding, which the family considered a sign—they are very familiar with Spaulding honorary trustee Tedy Bruschi and his family, as all the Gillen and Bruschi kids attended the same high school.
Gina and Brad developed a special bond with the staff, and especially Francesca, Brad’s physical therapist. Gina says, “Francesca could relate to Brad as an athlete and push him to improve, two qualities that really resonated with Brad and accelerated his recovery.”
A turning point was when Brad worked with Francesca to stand up for the first time soon after he arrived at Spaulding. His dad marveled at the video Gina sent him, knowing that just days before Brad couldn’t even sit up. Over the next few weeks Brad was able to walk and then skip. Then Francesca said, “You know, if you can skip, you can run.” And Brad the athlete was back.
Brad shared that his first thought in the ambulance was, “Ryan didn’t pull me out of the pool for me to be paralyzed for the rest of my life.” His lifelong determination and unwavering mindset, which serves him so well as an athlete, kicked into high gear during his rehabilitation. His care team incorporated golf putting and music into his therapy, knowing just what would motivate the teen to practice!
After only weeks at Spaulding, Brad was able to head home. He continued his outpatient rehabilitation throughout the summer, and in the fall, he picked up right where he left off—captain of his high school golf team and committed to playing golf at Bentley University. Brad and his family credit the amazing care he received at Spaulding for helping him get his life back.
Among Brad’s close-knit group of friends, another young man has also experienced a sports-related spinal cord injury. Brad hopes his successful recovery brings hope to his friend, and awareness to the issue and Spaulding’s role in his recovery.
Imagine the Possibilities
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