On Nov. 25, 2017, Michigan priest Father Dimitrie Vincent, 66, was playing hockey in an over-60 league when he was hit by another player and slammed into the boards.
“I was going to play the puck and I ended up getting slammed and pinned into the boards face first,” Father Dimitrie told Inside Edition.
That morning would change his life forever. His C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae were crushed, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
“My vertebrae snapped back with such force that it cracked,” he said. “I dropped to the ice immediately.”
Father Dimitrie knew the injury was serious at the ice rink, but the pain became unbearable once he arrived at the hospital.
“At the hospital, the pain started to come and it was excruciating,” he explained. “The surgeon came in and told me I needed surgery. I said, ‘When? Tomorrow? Next week?’ He said, ‘You needed it yesterday.'”
He underwent several surgeries before he began physical therapy in an attempt to regain any feeling whatsoever.
“In life, when you’re young, you think you’re invincible. Even when you’re older, you kind of forget your chronological age; you think you can do more. I couldn’t care for myself. I couldn’t feed myself and I couldn’t dress myself.”
But by Feb. 9, 2018, the priest made extremely remarkable improvement. He went home able to walk.
“By the time I left I was able to walk and I was able to do things that, in fact even the staff commented that it was quite an impressive recovery, but they really did work me very hard,” he said.
Father Dimitrie has looked at the entire ordeal as a chance to grow deeper in his faith. “It was humbling,” he said.
“It became self-evident the gospel stories of healing, the good Samaritan, was being lived out. I was living the gospel through the care and compassion and the people around me who were not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
“My faith was empowered and strengthened, I believe, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. I’m so grateful for that.”
So far, he has also recovered 30 percent of the feeling in his right hand and 60 percent in his left hand.
In order to help Father Dimitrie with the costs of his medical bills, the organization Hockey Has Heart will be holding a fundraiser on March 24 and donating the proceeds to him.
Father Dimitrie is certainly grateful for the support and knows God is watching over him. “If God is love, God works through these loving actions and I would absolutely [say] it was a miracle that things have happened as they did,” he said.
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