Jack Jablonski, the 16-year-old hockey player who was paralyzed by a hard hit in a junior varsity game on Dec. 30, underwent surgery on Wednesday but will likely not regain full mobility.
A post on Jablonski's CaringBridge page said the surgery at Hennepin County Medical Center was a success, but also "confirmed that his injury was horrific." The prognosis is that Jablonski will not be able to walk or skate again.
"This news is devastating to Jack and everyone who loves him. Our hope and dream is that he will be able to prove this prognosis wrong," the CaringBridge post read. "Our priority is to help Jack accept and transition into his new life, a life that we did not plan, but one that we have to embrace."
Jablonski's injury came with about nine minutes remaining in the Dec. 30 game against Wayzata. His father, Mike Jablonski, said he was hit by two players at almost the same time along the boards, with one of them slamming into Jack's back. Jack remained motionless on the ice.
“He just said, ‘Dad, I can’t feel anything,'" Mike Jablonski said.
Jack was rushed to HCMC with his neck in traction. Dr. Tina Slusher said the hard hit likely caused Jack's neck to dramatically hyper-extend. He suffered two fractured vertebrae and a partial tear of the spinal cord.
Slusher said different people heal in different ways after spinal injuries, so it's hard to say exactly how Jack will respond.
“How he’s doing in six weeks will tell us a lot more then right now," she said.
Jack's mother, Leslie Jablonski, said her son is handling things well and has high spirits considering the circumstances.
"He knows what’s going on, he knows the severity of the injury," she said. "But he’s not going to give up. He’s a fighter."
Mike Jablonski said he doesn't harbor ill-will toward the players who checked his son, but he would like to see U.S. youth hockey officials take a stricter stance against dangerous and illegal checks in the back.
"It won’t happen overnight, (but) USA Hockey needs to say, ‘Here’s the game we’re going to play,’” he said.
For the time being, the Jablonskis said they don't want to discourage anyone from playing hockey, including Jack's 13-year-old brother, Max, who plays youth hockey in Minneapolis. Leslie Jablonski said she even expects Jack to stay involved with the sport he loves, no matter how well he recovers.
“He’ll do anything he can to stay in the sport, one way or the other," she said. “He’ll never give up. He’s going to do something incredible with this.”
To share your well-wishes with Jack and his family, please visit his CaringBridge page.