THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Injured hockey player, buoyed by friends, returns to school

Thanks Norwood peers for support

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / May 13, 2010

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NORWOOD — Norwood High School hockey player Matt Brown received a warm welcome when he returned to school yesterday to visit friends and teachers, four months after an injury during a game left him paralyzed.

It was the 16-year-old sophomore’s first time back at the school. About a dozen students and administrators greeted Brown and his mother, Susan, as they exited their van. They applauded and shouted, “Welcome back, Matty!’’

After laughing with his sister, Kelley, 14, and three teammates in the lot, he went to the school’s audiovisual room, where he delivered a message to the student body on the school’s closed-circuit television system.

“Hello, Norwood High,’’ he said. “I just wanted to say thank you to everyone.’’

Brown told his classmates that their outpouring of support has given him strength during his rehabilitation.

“It’s good to be back. Thanks, guys,’’ he said.

Susan Brown also thanked the students and told them to encourage her son to continue his stretching exercises as he works to regain mobility.

“It’s up to you guys,’’ she said. “If he needs a kick, give him a kick.’’

She then helped Brown to move his left hand slightly to show the progress that he has made.

She later told reporters that she cried on the night of May 6, when her son said he could feel the bottom of his left foot for the first time since the injury.

“He said, ‘Do that again; touch it again,’ ’’ she said.

Brown also visited his Spanish class yesterday, where he was mobbed by friends, including sophomore Jackie Walsh, 16, who put her arm around him and said, “You look so good!’’

Teacher Katlyn Bohan told Brown the class has missed him terribly.

“Class is just not the same,’’ she said.

Sophomore Kyle Dolan, 15, one of Brown’s teammates, said the best part about having him back is “just being able to hang out and talk with him.’’

Sophomore Andrew Stover, 16, said he was happy to see Brown’s smile again.

“I’ve been kind of missing ‘the flow,’ ’’ he said, referring to Brown’s formerly puffy hairstyle.

And Brown has been missing his friends and teachers. He told reporters after visiting the class that his friends have helped him reach the point where he can return to school.

“There’s so much going through my mind right now,’’ he said. “It’s kind of amazing.’’

His sister, Kelley, a freshman at the school, said she was not surprised by the dozens of friends who greeted him yesterday, sometimes with a kiss on the cheek.

Residents have rallied behind Brown and his family since the injury, raising money for his medical care and sending countless cards and messages. George Usevich, Norwood High principal, said yesterday that community support remains strong.

“Matty is a special young man,’’ Usevich said, calling attention to the pin on his suit jacket bearing the number 3, which Brown wore on his hockey jersey. Usevich said he wears the pin every day.

Brown plans to alternate between attending classes and home tutoring, beginning this fall at the latest, his mother said.

Her eyes welled up when she told reporters what she has learned from her son since his injury.

“The statement that we’re stronger than we think we are really is true,’’ she said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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