Sean Goral is working hard to get back into life!

For: Sean Goral
Organizer: Janice and Tony Rodriguez
of $60,000 goal
73% Complete
Our son, Sean Goral was a passenger in a car crash on June 15th, 2013 in Statesboro, GA where he is a senior at Georgia Southern University.  Luckily, no one else in the car was injured!  The driver of the vehicle, whom our son did not know,  has now been convicted of DUI.  As a result, Sean suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury and broke six cervical vertebrae.  He was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and underwent a 12 hour surgery to fuse his vertebrae. He was in the ICU for nearly 3 weeks and then 7 weeks in the hospital's rehabilitation program.  He has been diagnosed as a C5-6 quadriplegic. Sean has no feeling below his waist and limited use of his hands. Of course we are hoping that he will regain function. We believe! The Shepherd Center is a wonderful place. We continue to go there for Sean's therapy, workouts, pool sessions and to volunteer in peer support. They have become family! 

We are very fortunate to have very caring family and friends that have given us so much support during this difficult time. We have moved from California to Atlanta to care for Sean as he heals. We have been amazed at the love we feel from everyone who knows Sean! There are many expenses that are not covered by insurance. The biggest challenge for us coming up are items not covered by insurance like physical, occupational therapy and a manual wheelchair. Having a manual wheelchair will allow him to go places that aren't accessible in a 500 lb. power chair!  If you know Sean then you know how much he likes the freedom to be on the go. This will help him in so many ways.  

Sean has only 3 credits left to graduate with an Honors degree in Biology. He recently completed Spring Term by working on a project with the Shepherd Center. As you may know, Sean's passion is Surfing. He is an amazing son and friend! 

With our love and gratitude,

Janice & Tony Rodriguez, Patrick Goral, and Sean's great group of friends.


by Janice and Tony Rodriguez

We can hardly believe that one year has passed since Sean's accident and spinal cord injury.  It has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion! We walked in to the Shepherd Center yesterday for Sean's therapy session and I paused for a moment when I realized that it was one year ago  exactly that Sean was  transferred from the hospital in Savannah to the Shepherd Center.  I remember feeling scared but hopeful about what would happen there. Immediately we were enveloped in care and introduced to people who have a passion for their jobs and for their mission. We were welcomed in to the Shepherd Family and we are so fortunate to be part of such an incredible place. It has been life changing. 

Here's a brief update since our last post. Sean completed 3 credits towards his undergrad in Biology by working with the Shepherd Research team.  That means he has only 3 credits left in order to graduate!  His new project begins very soon.  Woo hoo!!

We are official Peer Mentors now and have been mentoring a few families.  Working with the families is a very rewarding experience.  Each family has their own unique circumstance but we are all united in our care and concern for each other and wanting the best possible outcome for our injured loved ones!  To say that we are all extremely hopeful for what the future holds for each of them would be an understatement! 

Sean's great friend, Phil organized a celebration of Sean's life for the accident anniversary. Lots of Sean's friends came from far and wide to join in the festivities that included going out for brunch and to a Braves game.  We focused on the fact that we nearly lost Sean a year ago and are so blessed that he survived.  Thank you all.

Of course it is still a very diffcult realization that Sean hasn't walked since June 15th of last year.  We try not to focus on what he can't do and pour our energy into working with what he can do.  But we do have days that are very difficult and sad and we simply honor those times when they come.

We had an incredible experience attending a Life Rolls On event in Santa Monica, California last month.  Sean had an opportunity to surf at an adaptive surf camp there called They Will Surf Again.  Sean loved being back in the water even though it was much different than it was in the past. We are already working on ways to make surfing easier. Without neck mobility being able to see the waves coming is a huge challenge.  We met wonderful people there including some families that we stay in touch with.  Sean met a guy who does peer support out in California and now they are sharing stories with each other since we've been home. It was also our first family vacation together in a long time with Sean, Patrick, Tony and I. We were happy to be able to see some good friends.   Air travel just takes a bit more coordination when traveling with a power wheelchair user! 

Sean's dear Aunt Mary passed away last week after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Mary never smoked and survived many years past her diagnosis. She was able to see her 21 year old daughter, Grace, graduate college last month.  Grace has all of Mary's wondeful quality and her giving spirit.  Many of you donated to Mary's fundraising campaign a few years ago. 

Up next?  
Sean is on the short list to get a Canine Assistant.  His next task is to make a video of what life is like and how a service dog could help. We have to show our current dogs performing a task.  Rosie and Lilly are two renegade chihuahuas.  It will be fun to see what we can get them to do!!  

Sean just started Beyond Therapy at Shepherd. It is a private pay therapy program that is athletic based and focuses on the theory of Neuroplasticity.  We applied and received a grant that will help us pay for this program.  Cost is $110 per hour but so worth it. Sean is feeling much stronger and stable after just one week.  The therapists are not hemmed in by some of the guidelines of the hospital therapy setting so they have the ability to do much more.  It is an exciting time!

I just got an incredible job offer where I can work from home.  It's an exciting new opportuntiy in the travel field which is a huge passion of mine.  I am worried about balancing it all but I'm ready for the challenge!  Here we go...
Download the Hotel Tonight app on your phone and start getting spontaneous and very cool deals on the best hotels! 

Mostly we are extremely grateful and lucky to have our friends and family!  If we saw you this past year it is entirely to your credit that you worked with our crazy schedule and managed a visit! THANK YOU! I am so lucky to have the friendship of Phyllis!  She has been there for us for anything we needed.  She (and her family) cooked amazing meals, came running when I needed her and took me out for some fun. Honestly I can write a whole chapter just about her!  Fran comes to visit and we adventure around Atlanta together. She lost her wonderful husband, Shawn just after Sean's accident and we have bonded over our shared feelings of loss and healing. She is tons of fun to be around and we love her!  Minna has lifted us all up just by being her goofy, honest and soulful self.  We are so much further along in this process because of her. She is the person I can most easily cry with because she really gets it. 
Thank you all for your love and support and for being great at keeping in touch.  We promise to venture out more into the world this year to see you!  Visits to Athens (Kathy and Jessie)  and Savannah (Everybody!!)  are definites this summer and fall!! 

All my love,


by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
It's been a very busy three months since we've posted. Sean has started working to finish his remaining 6 hrs. to get his B.S. in Biology. He's working with Dr. Deborah Backus, PT, PhD who leads research at The Shepherd Center and Georgia Southern University's Biology Dept. 

Sean is volunteering at Shepherd as a Peer Mentor, helping newly injured people by sharing his experiences. They are an amazing group in Peer Support led by Minna Hong. Minna has taken our family under her wing and is propelling us forward by opening us up to new experiences and helping us see what's possible. Sean and I were recently invited to join the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program.  Once we complete the program we will be nationally certified to offer support to people with spinal cord injury and their families. We are thrilled to have this opportunity!

We received a grant and a large donation for a hand cycle for Sean. The cycle is being made but  should be delivered early March. Sean can't wait to get out on the road. He's been working out at Shepherd's gym to build his muscles. 

Sean celebrated his 23rd birthday last month with a surprise party organized by his good friend, Phil Mitchell. It was quite a blowout!!  A special thank you to Kathy Frary for the baked goods!! They were a hit. 

I am not working now. I worked for the last four years at Telemed and loved my job. Telemed has been extremely supportive since Sean's injury and we are very grateful. I'm job searching and excited to see what's ahead. 

We are moving at the end of the month to cut expenses and to gain access to the outdoors. Highrise living with two dogs is challenging! Our new place is on the first floor with a huge patio. We will have direct access to a beautiful park and the Atlanta Beltline. We can't wait. 

Sean's van has been such a blessing. The cold weather seemed to hit just after we got it. It allows us to get to so many places that we couldn't get to before. We can even fit two wheelchairs and often give a ride to one of Sean's friends. I think of all of you who donated to Sean each time I get behind the wheel. THANK YOU!!!

What's next?  We have applied for a grant for a program at Shepherd called Beyond Therapy. It's an intensive, aggressive and athletic therapy program. Sounds perfect for Sean, right? We have had great success in receiving grants. We are waiting to hear about two - the therapy one and  Georgia Crime Victims Fund. Wish us luck! 

Sean was invited to test out Google Glass today AND we are touring the Canine Assistants facility today. Puppies were born 6 weeks ago and we can't wait to see them. 

Thank you to all of our friends and family for your support, love and visits. 

New address as of 2/28 is:
525 Glen Iris Dr NE
Unit 3102
Atlanta, GA 30308

with love,


by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
The day has finally arrived!  Sean has a new vehicle - a Dodge Grand Caravan that has a ramp allowing him to wheel in and GO!  We have been out to places that he couldn't get to before. We visited with his good friend, Phil and his wonderful family for our first outing.  It was a spectacular Thanksgiving.

Sean is now mobile thanks to our family and friends who donated generously and from their hearts to make this happen.  We are so grateful and feel lucky to know each of you.

We are keeping the You Caring site open and are continuing to fundraise for Sean. Therapy at the Shepherd Center costs $900 per week ($3,600 per month!) and only a small percentage of that is covered by insurance.   We are also applying for grants for various things.  Some pay for equipment like a electric stimulation bike to stimulate and work Sean's muscles to prevent atrophy.  We are also applying for a Canine Assistant and are really excited about it. The process is a very long one - as long as 5 years!  Canine Assistants ccan open doors, pick up dropped items and provide lots of love.  

Sean's friend from Suwanee who is also a student at Georgia Southern is involved in organizing a fundraiser this Thursday, December 5th at Retriever's in Statesboro.  A portion of sales from 5-10pm will be donated to Sean.  Georgia Southern students, go check it out and support Sean!

Evan and Nathan Zanetich, the young sons of friends of ours that are really family, are selling items online to raise money for Sean.  Lots of love coming from New Jersey.  Thank you, boys!  I know your Mom and Bubbe are proud of you.  
Other fundraisers are in the works too- thank you, friends! I will post them here when I learn more.

I am very proud to say that Sean has started volunteering at The Shepherd Center as a Peer Support Volunteer. That means he talks to people that are newly injured and helps them to see what's possible.  He's only had his injury five months and he's already helping other people!  The Shepherd Center gives so much that it's only natural that he wants to give back. 

With lots of love this Holiday Season!  

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
GREAT NEWS!! We are now very close to our goal! In July we applied for a grant with the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund. They provide grants for Georgia residents for things like home modifications,accessible vehicles, adaptive equipment, etc. You can read about them here  Yesterday we got a notification in the mail that the Governor signed our grant and Sean was chosen as a recipient in the amount of $15,000.  We are so thrilled that Sean was chosen!! 

We have been shopping around and found quite a few used vehicles (minivans) that have been modified for power wheelchairs. They have a ramp that comes out of the sliding door, tie downs to secure a power wheelchair inside the vehicle and heavy duty motor to be able to handle the weight. Most of these used vehicles cost around $40,000 (new ones are $60,000)

What this means is that with your generous contributions and the Trust Fund Grant we have raised an astounding $32,700 so far. We have only $7,000 to be able to buy a vehicle! 

Please consider sharing Sean's story with everyone you know to help him get this vehicle! It means that he will be able to get anywhere he needs to go for therapy, finishing his last college credits, doctor visits AND to be able to visit friends and family. We have embraced the bus and train system and we appreciate that they are accessible but they don't go everywhere Sean needs to go. 

Thank you all for your enduring love and support. Our family is forever deeply grateful.

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez


From Sean
Hello everyone. It has been a busy month. The day program at the Shepherd center was amazing! All of my therapists were so helpful and caring. They helped me work on things to improve my independence. I also got to participate in some incredible activities. During my first week in the day program I got to swim with the whale sharks at the Georgia aquarium. It was interesting putting on a wetsuit, but it was great to get into salt water again. Plus the 25 foot fish swimming around and bumping into me was epic. The second week in day program I got to ride a hand cycle in piedmont park. This was a great experience because it was fun, but it also helped to get my tricep muscles back.
Unfortunately I had to leave the day program because I have limitations with my right wrist and elbow. Thankfully I'm seeing an upper extremity specialist in order to figure out the problem. Once the elbow and wrist are better I can return to day program for more therapy.
Meanwhile I'll be undergoing outpatient occupational therapy. I will also continue to swim and work out weekly.
As for school, I'm setting up an internship with shepherd spinal cord research department to finish my college credits, and graduate.
Everyday presents new challenges and obstacles, but support from all my friends and family make it much easier.

A Mom's Perspective 
Since Sean's accident we have been operating on auto pilot. Only now is the reality of what's happened really sinking in with us. It is extremely difficult to watch your beloved son face a daunting surgery and recovery. Indeed the odds of him surviving were not good. That he did survive does not surprise me. He's always been very strong. 
He did his absolute best during inpatient therapy even with a huge neck brace and tracheotomy site that was healing. We practically lived at the hospital those 9 weeks. As parents we had lots to learn about Spinal Cord Injury and how to help Sean. Sean's level of injury is considered C-6 Quadriplegia. What that means is that Sean has some upper body function but no sensation or movement below his chest. You can read more about SCI here:
After being home for 6 weeks he started 3 weeks of full time therapy back at The Shepherd Center where he was an inpatient. We lived in the adjacent apartments. The Day Program is very intensive. Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Recreational Therapy, Psychologist appts, outings, classes, and many other activities. They uncovered an issue with Sean's elbow and wrist that is limiting his already limited upper body. After an MRI and CT Scan last week we will find out next week whether Sean has to have another surgery or a special splint. After that's corrected he will go back to the Day Program for another session! 
We get out every day. We live where we can be very mobile. Sean is using a power wheelchair so we take the bus, train, walk or use a service that has a lift on their shuttle. We've been to concerts, parks, fishing, movies, museums, gardens. 
We never imagined that something like this could happen. It's life-changing. It has been hard for our entire family but we are adjusting. Tony has been the absolute best partner! My love for him has grown by leaps and bounds. There is nothing better than being with someone who adores your children. I can't write this without talking about Sean's attitude. Of course, this has been devastating for him but he has coped amazingly well. He has learned about his condition and is determined to be at his best. Nothing has changed about that, just how he goes about getting there. When I said life-changing, I do not mean life-ending. He has big plans and dreams! So do we! 
We are extremely grateful for our friends and all their support. 
With all my love and healing thoughts,

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
It's been a while since we posted an update. Thank you to everyone who donated to Sean! Please continue to share our message!  
We have been busy at home this month. We have been getting out a lot! We visited the High Museum of Art, went to the Music Midtown festival with friends and brother Patrick, spent lots of time at Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden. Sean's friends come to visit every weekend and we usually have a full house! We have had great friends bring us healthy and delicious meals! 

Sean is finally out of his neck brace and has been able to go swimming at The Shepherd Center.  Sean is enjoying his time in the pool. This coming week we are moving into the housing at The Shepherd Center and Sean starts full time in the Day Program. The Day Program is an all day therapy program focused on functional movement. We are not sure how long the program will last - anywhere from 4-6 weeks. Sean is really excited to get back into intensive therapy. There may even be a few surprises! 

Sean struggles with challenges every day. Adjusting to being in a wheelchair is a very difficult process for someone as active as Sean. He is working on being as positive as he can, however. He's even helping friends deal with challenges in their lives. 

We are really looking forward to getting a vehicle. Public transportation is a blessing but with colder weather coming, being outside will be difficult. With a spinal cord injury, Sean's body can't regulate his temperature very well. He tends to get cold very easily. A van will keep us from being out in the cold weather.

Sean's friends at Georgia Southern University are planning a fundraiser this fall. We will post information when we have it. Thank you!!!

Thank you all for supporting us as we face this most difficult time! We love you. 

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
It's September already, WOW! It has been nearly three months since Sean's accident. Sean is waiting to find out when he will be starting the full time Day Program of rehabilitation therapy at The Shepherd Center.  We are hoping that he will start there soon.  Since Sean has been home from the hospital he has been doing many things.

We have been venturing out into our new neighborhood. Sean uses his power wheelchair to get around.  We have been out to restaurants and shops, to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Piedmont Park, a street festival and to doctors appointments.  We take the bus or train if we can't get there in walking distance.  He also has a loaner manual chair to use for short periods of time. The manual chair is challenging since Sean's arms and shoulders have limited mobility.  It is great practice and exercise, though!

Sean has computer software called Dragon with voice recognition to help him use his computer more easily.  He also uses a special stylus and trackpad.  He keeps his phone on his wheelchair so that he can call and text his friends!  He'd love to hear from you! 

Sean has an amazing spirit and is handling his fears, doubts and challenges with grace and love. We are all very proudand in awe of how far he has come in a short time. He is not used to having others help him, rather he prefers to take care of things himself.  This is probably his greatest challenge. 

Sean is already making plans for life after this healing phase.  I won't share these plans  yet but they includes helping other people with Spinal Chord Injury that want to be physically active.  Sean's nature is always to help someone else!  When he was still at Shepherd, he was helping the newcomers with ways to do things that he learned.

Nearly $15,000 has been raised towards an accessible vehicle so far.  We are so grateful and happy that you have donated to help Sean.  Please continue to share his story and to encourage others to give.  We are not used to being the ones asking for help and would prefer it were the other way around.

All our love!

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
Thank you to our most amazing friends and family for helping us on our mission to get a vehicle for Sean.  We have raised over $12,000 so far! Thank you to everyone who has donated and shared our son's story. 
You may be wondering about what kind of vehicle is needed. The vehicle has to be able to handle a 500 lb. power wheelchair. Sean's wheelchair is also very tall. Most modified vehicles are not tall enough for his wheelchair with him in it. 
We have been getting to appointments by Marta bus and train. We took the train this afternoon and it was very jerky and bumpy. Sean made the best of it and we joked that it was like being st Six Flags!
Please continue spreading and sharing Sean's story. We couldn't do this without each and every one of you! We are blessed to have such wonderful friends and family!

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
This is a week of new beginnings. Sean comes home from the hospital on Wed for a one month break before he starts full time therapy at Shepherd. Not much of a break as we will be traveling back to Shepherd on the bus to use their gym on our own. He has been in the hospital for over 9 weeks and is looking forward to being home. Please come visit! We have been training and I am going to be assuming full care around the clock tomorrow until his release so they can ensure that I'm ready. 
Thank you for your visits, your donations, your thoughts and prayers but most of all for your love!

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
Sean's stay at the hospital was extended by one week due to the progress that he's made in the past two weeks!  That is excellent news as tha additional week gives him more time to work with his occupational and physical therapists. Sean is very strong and working to get stronger every day.  He is even putting in extra time in the therapy gym as his schedule allows!  He is enjoying all the visits he is getting from family and especially his friends!

We are so thrilled that nearly $10,000 has been raised since we started the fundraiser for Sean.  Thank you all for sharing our family's story with those you know and love.  Each and every donation helps get us closer to purchasing a vehicle. We have received donations from people that don't know us but that read about Sean's story and want to help.WOW!   

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
Thank you to all of Sean's supporters! We are thrilled that you are sharing our fundraiser. Your efforts are working as we have raised nearly $7,000 already. 

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
Supporters of Sean! Thank you very much for your donations. We are overwhelmingly lucky to know such amazing people that want to help Sean. 

Here's an update on Sean's progress. Sean is working hard in therapy on arm movement. He is now eating with adaptive tools and he's getting stronger. His spinal cord level of injury is considered to be at the C5 vertebrae which knocks out many of the nerves to his shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers.  He is making great progress in therapy. This is really his first week where the pain from surgery has lessened, enabling him to be more awake in therapy sessions. 

Sean has been enjoying visits from his friends and Patrick brought a projector for them to watch movies on the "big screen."   Sean has moved to a new, larger room with two walls of windows! He can see the treetops from bed now. He has been on a few outings on the Shepherd bus. Movies, ice cream, the aquarium! This week's outings include a trip on a Marta bus to come see his new home and the dogs! We are excited. 

Please continue to support Sean's progress! He's really feeling all the love and support. Thank you all. 

by Janice and Tony Rodriguez
Thank you for your contributions! We are so humbled by your support and good wishes. Please keep up the prayers and positive energy. It's really helping!

Sean's Family 



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