Milton Academy senior Jake Thibeault walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma Friday, months after a hockey injury in the fall left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The 18-year-old suffered spine fractures and a mild brain hemorrhage during the Eastern Alliance Kickoff tournament hockey game in September in Hopedale, Massachusetts. At the time, doctors said Thibeault was not likely to walk again.
The senior arrived at the Milton Academy graduation ceremony in a wheelchair and, when his name was read aloud, used a walker and leg braces to make his way across the stage and accept his diploma, according to video posted by his old team, the Boston Bulldogs, and shared by Milton's hockey team.
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Thibeault was determined to walk again even shortly after the accident. His father, Mike Thibeault, told NBC Boston last fall that, although chances were "very slim," given the nature of his injury, Jake simply said, "Well, I’m ready to fight."
Thibeault’s fighting spirit was left unbroken. It's a spirit that was nurtured throughout his life growing up playing hockey and living on a farm, his father said. And it shined through on graduation day, where he kept a promise to himself to be able to walk to receive his diploma.
Thibeault's recovery began at UMass Memorial Medical Center and then continued at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, followed by months of rehabilitation at Journey Forward in Canton. Much of the Massachusetts hockey community, including Boston Bruin Matt Grzelcyk, has been following along.