The Perfect Storm
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Sean Gjos was hurt playing intramural hockey, the response of his
friends and the UCLA community illuminated the best of human nature
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
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.