During the summer of his 13th birthday, Emmanuel played basketball up to 14 hours a day. After he had spent morning and afternoon at basketball camp, he would have an early dinner and play on the court at the YMCA until closing. But on July 6, 2013, no one could have expected what would happen to him. Emmanuel never saw the car that hit him at 160 kilometers per hour on the country road in front of his family’s cottage. The crash left him with six broken ribs, a perforated lung, severe head trauma and two fractured vertebrae. Emmanuel fell into a coma, was connected to a respirator, and was given little chance of survival by his doctors. Miraculously, he regained consciousness after seven days in a coma. When he woke, his doctor told him the crushing news that he would never walk again. After five weeks in intensive care, Emmanuel was transferred to the Marie Enfant Rehabilitation Centre where specialists prepared a two-year rehabilitation program. He first had to learn how to do simple but essential tasks again, such as eating, talking, and brushing his teeth. Eight months later, he had already made immense progress and was allowed to go home to continue his recovery. Today, Emmanuel has sensation back in his legs and can feel hot and cold, can stand and move his feet a little. He now swims regularly at the pool and plays wheelchair basketball. He is determined to play basketball on his feet someday.
In February 2016, Emmanuel was granted his most heartfelt wish – to meet his favorite NBA player, Kobe Bryant, during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto. But his wish turned in to far more than he expected. Emmanuel attended the All-Star practice the day before the game, took group photos with both All-Star teams and received an official basketball autographed by all the players. On game day, Emmanuel got the chance to meet Canadian All-Star Steve Nash and other retired NBA players at the alumni breakfast. Finally, while he watched the All-Star game from a suite, and many alumni NBA players stopped by for a visit. “Emmanuel had an amazing weekend”, says his mom, Sandra. “To meet the players he admires so much for their motivation to be the best gave him a burst of energy that helped him to work even harder on his rehabilitation.”
Emmanuel is now back at school but continues with his physiotherapy sessions. Josiane Lemaire, his physiotherapist, points out that his character has a lot to do with the success of his rehabilitation. “Emmanuel is a competitive athlete and as such, he always wants to be better,” she explains. “That gives him the motivation to do all his exercises and to reach his goals.” According to Mrs. Lemaire, Emmanuel has also become an inspiration for other children at the rehabilitation center. “We have photos of our patients up on a wall in the hallway,” she says, “and when children see his, they talk about him and compare themselves to him!”