The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Casey Ellin is On a Mission to Work Hard, Stay Positive and Help Others

Casey Ellin has rebounded from a near-fatal tragic accident and is on a mission to live and give.
Photo Courtesy / YouTube  Ca-sey: “BRAVE”

Casey Ellin, a 35-year-old St. John’s University alumnus, has vowed to make the best out of any situation. Ellin is trying to inspire and make a difference in the world around him nearly one decade following a life-threatening — and life-altering — accident.

On June 1, 2013, Ellin dove headfirst into shallow water at Jones Beach, N.Y., striking what he believes to be a sandbar. “I hit my head and broke my neck,” Ellin told The Torch in an exclusive interview via email, “and then I realized I couldn’t move.” 

Jones Beach lifeguards pulled Ellin to shore, who was then airlifted to Nassau University Medical Center where, he recalls, he was “fighting to live for 45 days in the intensive-care unit (ICU).” Ellin fractured the C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord to the point of paralysis; he required an emergency spinal fusion surgery and a femoral graft, two operations that have extended recovery times. 

However, spending months in the hospital, 45 days in the ICU on life support and battling several life-threatening conditions never broke his spirits. Ellin endured 13 grueling yet worthwhile weeks going from physical to occupational to speech therapy sessions “trying to figure out this new life.”

“My life changed in the blink of an eye. I now need assistance with most daily activities but I try not to let that stop me,” Ellin said. “Basically it impacted every aspect of my life and I am still trying to navigate this new world.”

Despite these extreme hardships through patience, hard work and perseverance, Ellin has gained back some of his mobility. He has recovered the use of his upper arms and biceps, providing him enough mobility to feed himself despite having no feeling in his hands or fingers. 

Currently, Ellin lives with his father and stepmother, but is in the process of finding a place to live on his own. This is not a straightforward task for Ellin, as he is faced with the challenge of ensuring home health aid coverage. 

“I am lucky and blessed to have a great support system between my family and friends,” Ellin said. “Without them I don’t know where I’d be.” 

In October, as part of Spinal Cord Awareness Month, Ellin and several other University alumni organized a 10-mile run. The route started at the site of the accident, continued to Cedar Creek Park and then back to Jones Beach.

During the run, Ellin was pushed in his wheelchair by fellow alumni, Quinn Evans and Kevin Thompson. “St. John’s offered me the opportunity to form friendships with people all across the country who I still remain in contact with to this day,” Ellin said.

Recently, Ellin took on a part-time job at a nonprofit organization that supports children who are developmentally disabled and medically fragile. He notes that being able to have a part-time job is one of his greatest accomplishments since the accident, saying that “this disability will not stop [me] or discourage [me] in any way.”

Nearly a decade after the accident, Ellin has worked extremely hard to focus not on the negative and what has been taken from him, but rather he focuses on all that remains and for which he is grateful. 

“I think it’s important for people to know that just because someone is disabled does not mean they are not a person who deserves respect and love,” Ellin said. “Just because I may roll around instead of walk does not diminish my drive to live a full and happy life.”

For more information on Casey Ellin and his journey click the link here!

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