Brian Page Jr., the Little Flyers hockey player who was paralyzed from the chest down in a November game, is learning how to do little things: Feeding himself with a device that is attached to his hand, having a catch with a ball, and other skills.
The 17-year-old from Delaware is making steady progress at Magee Hospital, his dad, Brian Page Sr., said in a phone interview Thursday.
“His day is full with just training to be independent,” Page Sr. said. “He’s doing exercises and constantly being stimulated by the therapists from all angles.”
The younger Page, a budding hockey star who was expected to play for a college powerhouse down the road, was released last week from Magee as an outpatient. Page, who is in a wheelchair, is now an inpatient five days a week at Magee, and he and some family members live at a nearby Sheraton Hotel to make it easier for him to attend the sessions and work with a physical therapist in the hospital’s gym.
“I was just talking to one of the therapists today, and he said the recovery is about a year and a half,” Page Sr. said. “He said he’s actually progressing further along than most patients with the same injury, so he’s definitely happy with where Brian is at. He said Brian is a great candidate for the therapy. If anyone is going to have this injury, he has the best body type because he’s skinny, he’s athletic, he’s strong. So he’s very hopeful of him progressing and moving along.”
Added Page Sr.: “We never really talk about walking, but obviously that’s in everybody’s mind and what everybody wants to see Brian do, including obviously – more than anyone else – himself.”
Page’s outpatient stay has been extended to six weeks, his dad said. The longer the stay, “the more the chance he’ll be as independent as possible,” Page Sr. said.
The NHL Flyers, who long ago gave permission for the Little Flyers to use their name but are not affiliated with the team, have continually given Page their support through team gifts and visits. Last Friday, former Flyers star Danny Briere visited with Page at his hotel.
Page’s dad, a veteran Delaware state trooper, is originally from the Pittsburgh area, and his son has been a lifelong fan of the Penguins and superstar Sidney Crosby.
“I know it’s not Pittsburgh,” a smiling Briere said as he presented Page with a No. 87 Flyers jersey – that’s Crosby’s number – with the teenager’s name on the back of it.
The younger Page “was really excited having a conversation with Danny about the rinks he liked to play in the most, and of course the rivalry between the Penguins and the Flyers,” Page Sr. said. “Brian is kind of reserved, so it’s hard to gauge what it really did for him. ... But when Danny pulled that jersey out, Brian just loved it.”
Briere, who was accompanied by team mascot Gritty on the visit, said he was “honored” to meet Page.
“Honestly, he blew me away with how mature he was with all the stuff he’s been going through,” Briere said on Thursday. “I can’t even imagine what he’s going through, but he was super positive and we were able to have some laughs and talk about a lot of things besides hockey. As soon as we started talking, it was like we knew each other for many years.”
The Flyers plan to have Brian and his family as guests at their May 4 game against the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center.
Page, a 6-foot, 160-pound forward, was injured in a game in Trenton on Nov. 15 as he skated into the offensive end and an opponent accidentally knocked him to the ice. Doctors later said he broke his C-5 and C-6 vertebrae and did damage to C-4 and C-7. He was then flown to Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he had four surgeries, including two to stabilize the spine and neck. In one operation, two rods and 10 pins were inserted.
Two weeks later, Page was transferred to Magee and started his rehabilitation process.
Along the way, Page has received support from many sources. On Thursday, for instance, the Adam Taliaferro Foundation approved a measure to donate a specialized shower wheelchair to Page.