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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
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Summer 2004
The Perfect Storm
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Sean Gjos Returns to the Rink
When Sean Gjos was hurt playing intramural hockey, the response of his friends and the UCLA community illuminated the best of human nature

By Theodore Rand
Photography by Dan Chavkin

ON MARCH 3, 1999, Anderson School classmates Sean Gjos, Eric Eisner and Ralph Vogel were playing for UCLA's club team in a national-championship ice-hockey tournament — the first time that the Bruins had made it into the postseason.

The game in Salt Lake City, Utah, had barely gotten under way when Gjos M.B.A. '99 went shoulder-to-shoulder against a player from Life University, a small college in Marietta, Ga. As they raced for the puck, a body check knocked the 6-foot-1-inch Gjos off balance and sent him crashing into the boards. A moment later he was down on the ice.

Seconds passed. "It didn't seem like an unusual play or a hard hit," Vogel M.B.A. '99 recalls.

Outside the arena, winter clung tenaciously to the city streets; inside, the warm and boisterous atmosphere became subdued as the crowd waited for Gjos to get up. He didn't. Vogel skated over and kneeled next to his friend. "I can't feel my legs," Gjos told him.

There is a perfect if tragic storm of events that occurs when someone sustains a serious spinal-cord injury. The force of the impact is a factor, says Bruce Dobkin, a professor of clinical neurology at UCLA, but so too are the precise angles of one's posture at the moment of impact and the peculiar biomechanics of torque.

This story is about such a perfect storm — but also about another that was spawned in its wake. Something about Sean Gjos, his friends and the community of UCLA converged on that March day five years ago, and the product of that coalescence today touches lives well beyond their own.

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