Back in November, Father Dimitrie Vincent, 66, was involved in a brutal accident during a game of hockey. The Michigan priest cracked his vertebrae during a hockey game, causing a severe spinal cord injury and leaving him paralyzed.
“We were coming to the close of the game and we were down by a couple goals,” Father Dimitrie Vincent told WJBK. “I went to play the puck and I got tangled up with the opposition.” When he smashed face-down into the ice, Dimitrie was gripped with fear at the sudden realization – he couldn’t feel anything below his shoulders.
“It was very hard because it was the worst pain I ever experienced in my life,” recalls Father Dimitrie, who ministers at St. Thomas Orthodox in Farmington Hills. “And it was nothing but a ball of pain. I was frozen. I couldn’t move and the pain was excruciating.”
Since his accident, he has embarked on a relentless journey of physical therapy, as well as battling infection and undergoing countless surgeries. Despite the bodily challenges and emotional turmoil, Dimitrie said he is overcome by a sense of gratitude. “I came in completely paralyzed and there were people to bathe me, feed me, clothe me,” he explained. “It really touched my heart. I was living the Gospel. I didn’t need to read the Gospel; those weeks I lived it.”
Father Dimitrie explained that he derives motivation to push forward in his recovery from his faith and calling to be a priest. Incredibly, at a recent charity event to help raise funds for his medical bills, he stood for the first time on his own and walk from his wheelchair to the bench!
“If my fellow mates are going to be there, I should be there to say thank you,” said the priest, who hopes to return to his job in the community. “Unbeknownst to even the people who drove me down there, I got up and shook the hand and thank them.”
He added: “It was pretty powerful because I surprised a number of people. It was great choice to show that sort of appreciation.”
The Organization “Hockey has Heart” is currently raising funds to help Father Dimitrie with his medical expenses. The group is even planning a gala event in March.
“Join Hockey has Heart, the hockey community along with friend and family to raise funds for Father Dimitrie Vincent’s recovery efforts. “Father D” was severely injured in a hockey game on November 25 and after emergency surgery and many other medical procedures is beginning his long road to normalcy. The funds we raise at this event will enable Father Dimitrie to afford outpatient physical therapy; a critical component to his recovery,” reads a blurb on the event page.
Almost $4,000 has now been raised for the injured priest, so there is still a way to go in order to reach the goal of $50,000. Despite the trials of his injury, Dimitrie is maintaining a wonderfully inspiring attitude to the whole ordeal.
“My purpose isn’t to be a hockey player, my joy is to serve God and with love, serve my neighbor and certainly be there to serve my family,” he said. “I’m a pretty happy guy.”