It only take one second for someone’s life to change entirely. Some learn this sooner in life than others.
Michael Nichols learned this lesson when he was just 17 years old. On January 4, 2014, Nichols was playing for his high school ice hockey team when he was body-checked and fell headfirst into the boards. He was rushed to a local hospital, where doctors diagnosed a broken neck. As a result, Nichols was paralyzed and would most likely never skate again.
Fast forward three years. On Friday April 21, Nichols, in partnership with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and WFAN morning sports talk show radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, hosted the third annual Boomer & Carton/Mikey Strong 23 Benefit Hockey Game at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
— NJ Devil (@NJDevil00) April 22, 2017
“Hockey was my serenity. Once I stepped onto the ice, there were no girl problems, none of my parents yelling at me, no bad grades, it was just me and the ice, Nichols said. “For me to take my first love and share it with the paralysis community and give back to the community, it means the world to me. I’ve learned the amount of people I’ve touched being in this wheelchair completely surpasses the amount of people I’ve impacted when I was playing hockey.” (MyCentralJersey.com)
The New Jersey Devils hosted the event at the Prudential Center and underwrote all ticket sales. Half of the proceeds from the benefit went to the Nichols Family Trust and the other half was donated to the Reeve Foundation. Proceeds help to continue paralysis research in the area of epidural electrical stimulation.
Epidural electrical stimulation is a continuous electrical current placed on the lower part of the spinal cord. The stimulation is intended to allow people diagnosed with paralysis to voluntarily move their legs. Based on previous research, four men have been able to move their legs voluntarily when the stimulation is on. Epidural electrical stimulation has also proven that the treatment can improve autonomic functions such as well-being, temperature regulation, sexual function, and bladder control.
“To be 100 percent honest, if I had to pick between not being in a wheelchair without automatic functions and being in a wheelchair with the functions, I’d chose the automatic functions because it would make my quality of life so much better,” Nichols said. “The wheelchair, yeah it sucks, I can’t walk, I can’t go up stairs, I can’t do all these things, but for me, to be cold all the time, to not be able to pee on my own, all these things that are natural, I’d much rather have those back than be able to walk because it sucks.”
Nichols’ goal right after the accident was to walk again.
I will walk again
— Mike Nichols (@M_Nichs) February 28, 2014
Between the continuous outreach from the hockey community and beyond, and the technology that is becoming available in the 21st century, walking might not be far out of reach. And with that, maybe skating again isn’t too far-fetched either.