Sixteen-year-old Jack Jablonski underwent surgery Wednesday to repair spinal damage he suffered Friday in a hockey collision that left him unable to move his legs.
A post on the family's Facebook support page said the procedure went "very well" and that he was recovering in intensive care at Hennepin County Medical Center, but it remains unclear if he'll gain more bodily function. A statement from the hospital regarding the procedure, which fused together two fractured vertebrae in Jablonski's neck, is expected Thursday morning.
The sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's was injured in a junior varsity tournament game against Wayzata when he was checked from behind and crashed head-first into the boards. Lying on the ice, Jablonski told his father he couldn't feel anything, but he gained some movement in his shoulders and right arm after being placed in traction and a halo neck brace at HCMC.
In addition to fracturing the two vertebrae, his spinal cord was severed at the C5 level, Dr. Tina Slusher said Monday during a briefing at the hospital. In general, the nerves that control the neck, shoulder muscles and biceps are at or above that level, while nerves controlling forearm, hand and leg muscles are below that level.
On Monday, Slusher described the absence of further movement as "very worrisome," though she allowed for some hope based on Jablonski's youth, strength and other factors.
Jablonski and his family have received prayers and good wishes in the form of thousands of Twitter posts and messages on their Caringbridge and Facebook websites. The tragedy has evoked heart-felt responses from celebrities as varied as actor Steve Carell, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and Twins pitcher Carl Pavano.
Now a series of tangible honors are being planned. Benilde classmates are planning to wear white Thursday in honor of Jablonski. A pond hockey tournament on Lake Minnetonka also is being planned Jan. 14.
Benilde and Wayzata hockey players had planned to bear his jersey number, 13, on their uniforms at a varsity game in Plymouth Thursday night, but the game was called off late Wednesday. A decision to cancel the junior varsity rematch had already been made days earlier because "neither team was ready to play again," according to Benilde's website.
About 100 Benilde-St. Margaret's boys' hockey players and parents met at the school's chapel Wednesday afternoon. Coach Ken Pauly read a statement from Leslie Jablonski, Jack's mother.
Pauly said the "emotional meeting" made "everyone aware of the challenges ahead. Guys are not giving up hope for their friend but we're under no illusion about the long fight ahead."