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'I'm still the same': Student-athlete paralyzed during football game continues rehab

Randy Shaver traveled to Denver to check in with Ethan Glynn, the Bloomington Jefferson freshman who suffered a spinal injury making a tackle earlier this year.

DENVER — Sept. 29, 2022 — that's the day Ethan Glynn arrived at Craig Hospital near Denver, leaving “Why me?” behind.

It's there that the 15-year-old is learning how to truly live in his new reality.

This is what courage looks like.

“How would you describe his spirit?” KARE 11's Randy Shaver asked Ethan’s parents, Corey Glynn and Cassidy Durkin.

“It's been, 'What can I do next? What's next? What do I have for my day today?' said Corey.

“Forward-moving. He's not looking at what has happened. It's like, 'Let's do everything going forward,'” said Cassidy.

Corey and Cassidy, along with Ethan's older brother Parker, are at Craig Hospital with him — and family support means everything.

This hospital specializes in spinal cord treatment and rehab, and the days here for patients are long, challenging and exhausting. Easy tasks that we take for granted, like breathing, are skills Ethan has to relearn and strengthen.

“The goal here is to try to make you as independent as possible," said Shaver. "How do you feel like it's going so far?"

“I think it's going good," Ethan said. "I'm really learning how to explain to people what I need. Because it's hard when you can just use your mouth and show them.”

Ethan is paralyzed from basically his upper bicep, down. He was injured while making a tackle in the first quarter of his first-ever freshman football game for Bloomington Jefferson.

“As Cassidy told me, 'A million things had to go wrong for my son to be hurt — and they did,'” said Jefferson varsity football coach Tim Carlson.

Carlson was there that day in early September. The accident changed him like it has so many who were there.

“You guys made it clear from the beginning that you weren't going to blame football for this. Why?" Shaver asked Ethan's parents.

“Because I don't think it really had much to do with it," said Corey. "I think it was a series of circumstances that went correctly to make it a very incorrect result. And he would be the first one to tell you that, too.”

“Do you blame football for this?" Shaver asked Ethan.

“No, I don't think anyone should stop playing football because I got injured," Ethan said. "This is like a one-in-a-billion chance. I feel like you never see this happen. This is just unlucky.”

Looking around his hospital room, there's proof that football is still a big part of Ethan's life. It's full of Alabama pride — Ethan is a Roll-Tide-kind-of kid — and that football program has showered him with support. He was also just at a Denver Broncos game with his dad, which was his first big adventure outside the hospital. 

Keeping a positive attitude, despite the challenges he faces, is a hallmark of Ethan's personality through and through.

“He starts the day with a smile," Corey said. "He ends the day off with a smile and 'I love you,' and, 'Let's go on and do it again tomorrow.'”

“What's the hope here for him long-term?" Shaver asked Ethan's parents.

“Some independence gained back; some of his independence, to get back home, you know, get around some familiarity,“ said Corey.

Cassidy added, “I've said this before: He was always going to do great things. He's just going to do them all differently and on a different timeline now. And we'll just figure out what that is, and what it's going to look like.”

Sometimes progress comes slowly, but on this day, it came fast.

For the first time, Ethan was raised all the way up in a standing frame. A big deal, Ethan celebrated by showing Parker that at least on this day, he was just as tall as his big brother.

“What do you want your friends to know about you, right now, back home?” Randy asked Ethan.

“I'm still the same," Ethan said. "It affected me, but I'm still the same Ethan. I just have to do stuff differently.”

“When you say, 'the same Ethan,' what is 'the same Ethan?' Tell me what that is,” Randy asked.

“I think, funny. Yeah, I hope,” Ethan said.

“What's your greatest hope for you?” Randy asked.

“That I can live a pretty normal life like this — I know I can. And that's my goal, is to live a normal life like this with my family.”

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