Grateful for recovery

When Erik Arrincon finally felt normal again, there was no party, no celebration.

After he fractured his neck just over a year ago during a basketball game, no one knew if he would ever walk again, but the 16-year-old has almost completely recovered.

The Ocean View High School junior has come a long way in about 13 months, and although he may never play basketball again, he said he feels grateful every morning for what he has, and the experience has solidified his desire to help others overcome similar injuries.

"I wake up just thinking how lucky I really am," he said. "It was all a big humbling experience."

Erik was playing defense Oct. 11, 2009 for the club team Huntington Beach Rebels in San Diego. It was only 10 minutes into the game when he jumped three or four feet into the air to block an opponent's shot.

The other player was faking and jumped up as Erik was coming down. Mid-air, Erik's feet got caught on the other player, and he fell and hit his head.

He was rushed to the hospital with a fractured neck and underwent two surgeries before he was transferred out of intensive care. He spent about 10 days in a hospital in Long Beach before he was sent home in a wheelchair he refused to use.

He did physical therapy for another six months and had to have a third surgery in March before returning to school halfway through his sophomore year.

It was some time during those six months that Erik said he finally felt back to his old self. He still has a little trouble with his left hand, but it's really only when it's cold, he said.

Although he has made strides physically, about a month ago he hit another low.

His doctors let him start training to play basketball again, shooting and jogging, but they laid out the gravity of Erik's situation and let him make the choice.

If he took another fall, he could be fine, or it could be his last, doctors told Erik, who also played on Ocean View's junior varsity team in addition to the club team.

Although his arms and legs are working again and he had started training, shooting a basketball and jogging, he made the choice not to risk it.

Basketball has been Erik's passion since he started seriously playing in third grade, said Susan Munro, Erik's mother.

The game is a big part of his life and he will always want to play, but it isn't worth taking the chance, Erik said.

"It was just too much of a risk to go back and play," he said. "It wasn't worth it."

With one passion taken away, Erik has been able to focus on his future and has cemented what he wants to dedicate his life to, Munro said.

Erik was leaning toward sports medicine before the accident and has since narrowed the field to physical therapy. He has met his share of physical therapists, he said, and gained from his experiences with each one.

He also wants to share his own experiences with other kids who are facing the same hurdles he did.

"I can relate to those kinds of kids," he said. "I think it would just make the connection even deeper."

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