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'I'm very lucky': Centre College student recovering after diving into shallow pool

Britt O'Brien was paralyzed after a summer trip to Georgia with his friends. Now, he's on his way to recovery in Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In August 2021, Britt O’Brien's world was turned upside down after a summer trip with his friends in Georgia.

O’Brien became paralyzed after diving into the shallow end of a pool, which he thought was much deeper. 

The former lacrosse player and Lexington native said doctors told him he would be paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. However, since starting physical therapy at the Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville, he’s gained movement in his arms.

“I thought I was going to die," he said. "I'm very lucky. I very well could not be here right now.”

Director of Spinal Cord Injury Camilo Castillo says O’Brien’s incident is pretty common. He said diving into shallow water causes 20% of spinal cord injuries.

“The outcome is individualized. Each person, each case can be different. So some patients recover and some patients do not recover,” he said.

Dr. Castillo says both rehab and a patient's mental health play a huge part in their recovery.

As for O’Brien, he said he refuses to let what happened to him break his spirit.

“No point in feeling bad for yourself. You can’t go back and say ‘hey don’t dive in the pool’ and see how deep it is. There’s nothing I can do about that. So might as well take the most advantage that I can being alive and do everything I can to get better really," O'Brien said.

O’Brien said he’s looking forward to playing lacrosse at Centre College again in the future. In the meantime, he plans to help coach the team this year.

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