The saying goes that there is a silver lining in every cloud – and for sophomore Khaliq Gant, even a life-changing spinal cord injury has its bright side.
“He told me the other day that he felt in some ways this was a blessing,” said his father, Dean Gant. “He’s recognized there is some higher calling for him and this will lead to that.”
On Jan. 24, Khaliq suffered the dislocation of his C-4 and C-5 vertebrate when he collided with several other members of the men’s basketball team in a practice drill. After a seven-hour surgery on Jan. 27 in which bone was taken from his hip to fuse the two vertebrate together, Khaliq was transferred to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 2 to undergo rehabilitation. After nearly three weeks at this facility, he has regained movement in his arms, legs, fingers, and toes.
“He’s doing quite well. Mentally, his attitude is great, really positive and upbeat. He’s really looking at the bright side of things. Physically, he has movement in all areas of his body,” Dean said. “His therapists are really encouraged, and quite frankly, some are really surprised he’s doing so well so quickly.”
Despite a difficult adjustment period upon his arrival, Khaliq has since settled in and focused on the task at hand, impressing his parents, doctors, coaches, and teammates with his positive attitude and dedication to a difficult recovery. Cornell head coach Steve Donahue was in Atlanta with Khaliq on Monday.
“When I walked in there, I didn’t know what to expect. I was going to celebrate anything. But he was extremely impressive – with his movements, his attitude, he went right through a hard hour and a half workout,” Donahue said. “He went at it just like you would expect him to go at it and got results.”
Khaliq’s parents, teammates, and coaches have all praised his positive outlook since the injury occurred. After coaching Khaliq for nearly two years, Donahue said that the determination and work ethic he had observed in Khaliq made him believe that Khaliq would be able to come back from this injury.
“If there’s a more disciplined young man at that age, I don’t know him. I haven’t met him. Khaliq has always been very goal-oriented. You only tell him something once, then he does it – especially with his body,” Donahue said. “All these things, they’re going to help him with this part of the struggle, and I expected that.”
The other members of the team have kept Khaliq in their hearts and minds, literally, wearing his No. 21 stitched on their uniforms over their hearts and on ski caps that each player now has, and one of which hangs on the wall in Donahue’s office. The team has dedicated the season to Khaliq, something that has helped everyone on the roster, whether they’re struggling with physical therapy or searching for wins in the Ivy League.
“It means a lot to us to have the season dedicated to him. He’s such a big part of our team, we’re all good friends,” said senior tri-captain Lenny Collins. “To dedicate the season to him, it means we’re going to go out there and play as hard as we can every time we go out on the court, just try to make him proud and push his spirits with out efforts.”
The team has set up a video tele-conferencing system in Donahue’s office, which allows players to communicate with Khaliq on a daily basis. Khaliq’s father said that being able to take part in the “usual repartee” keeps Khaliq feeling connected to the team and encourages him in his rehab routine of occupational and physical therapy. Khaliq is also undergoing recreational therapy, which helps people with spinal injuries learn how to function in a normal routine at whatever stage of recovery they may be at.
While the entire ordeal of injury, surgery, and the ongoing recovery has not been easy for anyone, it has been a positive experience for those involved.
“It makes you