‘I cannot thank you enough’ – Rutgers star paralyzed in tackle pens open letter to devoted mom

When someone experiences a life-changing injury, they are rarely the only one affected. And for this former football star, there was one person whose life changed nearly as much as his did when he was rendered paraplegic: his mom’s.

Back in 2010, when Eric LeGrand was just a 20-year-old budding sports star, he broke his neck playing as a defensive lineman for Rutgers’ football team against the Army Black Knights. It was during a kick off when the young player collided with opposing team player Malcolm Brown, knocking his helmet into the other player’s shoulder and crashing hard to the ground.

Now, five years later, Eric is paying tribute to the woman who stood by him through the struggles that followed that fateful day in a tear-jerking open letter for The Mighty.

Mother's love: Former Rutgers football star Eric LeGrand (right), 25, has written a heartfelt open letter to his mother Karen (center) for her dedication to his recovery since he became paralyzed in 2010

Karen LeGrand worked her last day as an import/export specialist near the family home in New Jersey just a day before Eric suffered his spinal injury. The moment she found out, she became her son’s primary caregiver.

‘They say moms are always there for their children. As much as I wish that statement were true for everybody, I’m fortunate enough to have it be true in my life,’ Eric writes. ‘When I think about you, Mom, I think about how tough, stern and responsible you are.

‘Since the day I was born, you’ve always wanted the best for my older sister and me. You raised both of us as a single mom, which is challenging enough on its own,’ he adds.

In his letter, Eric reveals how his mother added nearly an hour onto her commute everyday just so Eric’s sister Nicole could go to a nicer school.

Through his mother’s incredible dedication and spirit, he says, he learned how to see through a goal, including when it came to his football career. He remembers how, even when he believed he ‘was too good for practice’, Karen would have none of it, and made him put in his hours.

Not only was she his greatest guiding force, but she also was the most vocal fan by the field come game day.

‘Every time I broke out on a long run, you’d chase me up and down the sideline, running with me like you were about to score a touchdown during my Pop Warner football games,’ he writes. ‘All of the other parents loved it, and they knew when I broke for a big run to look out for you, too.’

But then, on October 16, 2010, both of their lives would be changed forever. After Eric went down on the field that day, doctors told him that not only were his chances of walking again less than five per cent, but he was told he would likely need a ventilator for the rest of his life.

Dedicated: After learning of her son's injury, Karen stayed at the Kessler Institude in West Orange, New Jersey, where Eric was going through rehab and helped him through recovery

It was the sort of diagnosis that could stop an entire family in their tracks – but not for Karen LeGrand. 

‘After my injury five years ago, you had a choice to make: Either let me figure out things on my own after being paralyzed, or take control of the entire situation and make sure I had the best of everything,’ writes Eric.

Karen went for the second option. She quit her job, spent all her time at the Kessler Institude in West Orange, New Jersey, where Eric was going through recovery, and dealt with all the necessary paperwork and press that came after the accident.

Even after Eric came out of the hospital five months after, Karen did everything she could to make Eric’s transition as easy as possible.

Once, Eric writes, she drove him an hour north of his home in Jackson after 11pm to see his friends at a bar, went home and stayed up until 3am in order to pick him up, take him back home the hour drive back to Jackson and get him ready for bed.

Inspiring others: Eric was welcomed as a speaker at the 248th Commencement Ceremony at Rutgers University in May 2014

‘You really tried your best to help me adjust to our new lifestyle while also letting me enjoy myself as a young 20-year-old,’ the grateful son writes. ‘You’ve dedicated your life to helping me be great and be the man that I am today, and I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me.

‘Without you, I don’t know what I would do because you make life so much easier. We do argue about 35 times a day about every little thing, especially because I believe I am a grown man. (Ha ha!)’ he adds. ‘However, I do know at the end of the day, you will always have my best interest, and I can’t ask her for anything more.

Eric finishes the beautiful, heartfelt letter with an enthusiastic ‘Thank you’ to his ‘Mama Duke’, closing with: ‘I love you’.

Over the five years since the incident, Eric has staged a remarkable recovery. He is able to breathe independently and can stand with the help of a metal frame as well as gradually rebuilding other muscles in his body.

He has also spoken at the commencement ceremony at Rutgers since his accident and, in 2013, Eric and his mother teamed with the Reeve Foundation to form the charity Team LeGrand of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which raises funds for research towards finding a cure for paralysis and bettering the lives of those suffering with spinal injuries.

Source: The DailyMail

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