He used to be a hockey player, but one game turned his life 180 degrees. Today, Mickey Nichols dreams of one thing: a second chance.
It was the fourth of January, and Mickey was preparing himself for one of the major things he values in his life – hockey. He was playing for the Monroe High School hockey team with his school buddies. Standing five feet and seven inches and weighing about 135 pounds, Mickey played in a way that made him bigger and stronger.
This young teen loved hockey so much that he was giving everything he had to win the game. He played with all his heart and wanted to enjoy every second he was on the rink.
But during the game something horrible happened. Mickey was so focused on chasing a puck in the corner and did not realize he was checked from behind. Everything happened in a flash and all this young player remembered was hitting the boards and then lying on the floor unable to move anything – his arms, his legs.
The referee rushed to see him, but when he was not getting up, his coach, teammates, his best friend and his dad, Steve Nichols, hurried to his side to check on him. They asked if he was okay, but looking at his pale face, they knew he was not. Mickey was severely injured, he was then strapped to a board and was immediately flown by a helicopter to Morristown Medical Center.
The doctors found out that Mickey badly injured his C-5 vertebrae; it was so bad he needed an immediate surgical operation for it to be repaired. He spent more than a month in the intensive care unit, suffered a high fever and blood infections. He also experienced severe hypotension or low blood pressure, and every time it happened, he went blind. The doctors ordered for a CT scan, there they discovered that Mickey suffered a minor stroke.
He was discharged in the facility’s ICU and was transferred to Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation located in West Orange so that he could start his physical and rehabilitation therapy. Unfortunately, Mickey complained of difficulty of breathing and he was immediately sent back to the medical center in Morristown where he went into cardiopulmonary arrest.
Doctors and nurses were doing everything to resuscitate him. His mother, Christine Nichols, was standing helplessly looking at her son hoping he would be given another chance to live. Good thing her prayer was answered, but Mickey’s attending physicians told Christine and Steve that it is impossible for their son to live life as he had before.
But his parents knew Mickey would fight and that he would not let himself be beaten with this huge blow. And they were right. Mickey started improving, and last March, he was transferred to Kessler for his rehabilitation. On his birthday, his pulmonologist announced that he no longer needed a mechanical ventilator, and then he received one of the best gifts – getting off from the machine.
But Mickey does not want to stop there. He dreams of an ultimate second chance. To achieve his dream gradually, he attended a fundraising event organized by the Central Jersey Spinal Cord Association. The young lad excitedly went to the event and hoped it will be a stepping stone for him to be part of the Christopher Reeve Foundation – a charitable organization that gives an individual with paralysis a major breakthrough.
Today, though he is still paralyzed from the chest down, Mickey never loses hope of walking again. He does not want to use a wheelchair in his entire life. He is trying everything to gain back his freedom and independence. And he dreams of a second chance – that ultimate second chance – which is to be able to move every part of his body, get up from his wheelchair, and play his favorite game again.