WORCESTER (CBS) – Jake Thibeault is out to prove people wrong.
The 18-year-old Milton Academy student, one of the top hockey prospects in New England, suffered a spinal cord injury last weekend while playing in a tournament with a private club called the Boston Bulldogs.
After crashing into the boards back first, Thibeault has no movement from the waist down.
Despite the discouraging circumstances he finds himself in, Thibeault is inspiring friends and strangers alike with his positive attitude about the rehabilitation process that awaits him.
“I think that’s what keeps me going, waking up every morning to 100s of texts from friends and people I’ve never spoken to,” Thibeault said in an exclusive interview with WBZ-TV. “They’re just telling me to keep going. As much as I want to do it for myself, I also know I want to prove people wrong that may doubt me walking again. But at the same time I want to walk with my friends again and they’re the ones keeping me going right now.”
Thibeault is recovering at UMass Memorial Medical Center, waiting to start his rehab.
“I think that’s a big thing with me right now. I’m just ready to wake up and have purpose again. What I mean by that is fighting this thing. Ready to go to war with it,” Thibeault said. ”If I could do it now I’d be doing it. Of course I’m feeling pain and stuff I’ve never felt before in my life and never thought I would. But ready to fight and get back to where I was this past week.”
Thibeault said he gets his positive attitude and determination from his parents, and from friendly competition with his older brother growing up.
He also said his stature has forced him to work harder throughout his life, a mentality he plans to continue.
“I’m not the biggest hockey player. I’m a small kid. I’ve always been the underdog, undersized. So I’ve always had to work a little harder. It’s added up over time,” he said.
Thibeault said the support of the hockey community and beyond has been “astonishing.”
“That just keeps me going and keeps my mentality for the fight up,” he said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Jake’s family with medical and home construction costs. So far, nearly $400,000 has been raised.