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‘We wouldn’t wish this on anybody’: father of paralyzed Winnipeg hockey player

Paralyzed hockey player Reese Ketler.
Paralyzed hockey player Reese Ketler. GoFundMe

The father of a Winnipeg junior hockey player who was paralyzed after a collision in a December game says the last few weeks have been a blur, as the family copes with the life-altering situation.

Reese Ketler, a 19-year-old defenceman for the St. Vital Victorias of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League (MMJHL), hit the boards head-first during a game Dec. 19 and suffered four fractured vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

Reese’s dad, Trevor Ketler, told 680 CJOB the player and his family have been taking things one day at a time.

“We’re in a territory that we’ve never been before, and wouldn’t wish it on anybody…”

“We’re looking at this one day at a time so it doesn’t get too overwhelming,” he said. “We’re celebrating the small victories as they occur.”

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READ MORE: Donations pouring in for Winnipeg player paralyzed during MMJHL game

One of those victories, Ketler said, was that his son has gone from being attached to tubes and machines in hospital to being able to interact with friends and family, and he’s now going through physiotherapy and spending time in a wheelchair.

The injury, he said, is something parents of hockey players always know could happen in a high-speed, contact sport, but actually being in that situation is something entirely different.

“It is very surreal. It’s nothing you can prepare for,” he said.

“We’ve all been to games where there’s been an awkward hit into the boards, and you think, ‘oh wow, that was bad’, and you see them crumple to the ice, and then moments later they get up. Obviously, that didn’t happen this time, and it’s our new reality.”

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A GoFundMe fundraiser was created to help the family with medical support, mobility equipment, home modifications and more, and as of Monday morning, over $166,000 had been raised.

Ketler said the support has been overwhelming, and the family is grateful to the friends and family who set up the fundraiser on Reese’s behalf.

“It’s not so much the money, it’s the support that’s coming out of it and the words of encouragement,” he said.

“We’re going to get through this. Reese is a super strong individual, and right now his goal is to get out of the hospital and he’s working hard to get to that point.”

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Click to play video 'Tips on how to treat and prevent sport injuries.' Tips on how to treat and prevent sport injuries.
Tips on how to treat and prevent sport injuries.