Sacred Heart University student overcomes great odds to help others after traumatic head injury
A Trumbull man has defied the odds after a debilitating head injury over 15 years ago and is now working with others going through similar injuries.
Garrett Mendez, 35, has been playing hockey since he was a kid.
After playing at Notre Dame of Fairfield, he went on to college in Massachusetts, where his life changed forever.
"I slid head first into the boards to get a puck and that trauma of me hitting my head into the boards, that's what caused me to have a stroke," said Mendez.
"I thought he had broken his neck or he was dead, but thankfully he got up," said his mother, Eileen Mendez.
A short time later, his brain stem stroke left him unable to speak or use his arms and legs. He was rushed to St. Vincent's Medical Center.
"I rode in that ambulance which was probably the most terrifying seven or eight minutes of my life," said his mother.
Nine days before Christmas, he was transferred to Gaylord Specialty Healthcare in Wallingford.
"He was very, very impaired. He could not communicate. He didn't have a lot of active movement in his extremities and he was very, very tearful," said Dr. Alyse Sicklick at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare.
After three months, Garrett Mendez, learned how to walk and speak again. He set his sights on something greater than himself, and thanks his family and doctors for all they have done for him.
"They really helped to get me where I am today," said Garrett Mendez, tearfully.
Fifteen years later, Garrett Mendez works with people who have suffered similar injuries through a mentoring program at Gaylord.
"I do see myself as some-what of an inspiration," said Garrett Mendez.
"He is the ultimate testament to hard work pays off," said Sicklick.
Garrett Mendez went back to school and is studying psychology at Sacred Heart University. He's on track to graduate this fall.
"From where he came from, he's a miracle," said Eileen Mendez.
Mendez's remarkable recovery is part of an upcoming PBS series called Travels and Traditions.