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Tyler Surprises teammates at Saddle Brook awards Dinner

01/27/2012, 12:06pm EST
By NorthJersey.com

GARFIELD — Aside from the neck brace, Tyler Vitiello was just another one of the kids.

He smiled and laughed with his Saddle Brook football teammates. When the parents took a little too long to capture a group photo, he grew restless.

 

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2011 LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY DECEMBER 9, 2011, 7:45 AM
BY ANDY VASQUEZ
STAFF WRITER
THE RECORD

GARFIELD — Aside from the neck brace, Tyler Vitiello was just another one of the kids.

He smiled and laughed with his Saddle Brook football teammates. When the parents took a little too long to capture a group photo, he grew restless.

Tyler Vitiello, far left, who suffered a broken neck in a Nov. 5 game, appearing at the Saddle Brook football team’s awards dinner Thursday night.
Most importantly, he was walking around the room. A smile on his face and a spring to every step he took.

“It’s really great, just to be here back with my friends,” Vitiello said with a smile. “I can’t wait to get my life back.”

Vitiello, who suffered a broken neck in a Nov. 5 football game, got a piece of his life back Thursday night. He surprised his teammates at the Saddle Brook football team awards banquet, entering the room to an emotional standing ovation.

Vitiello, who has been recovering at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, was out on a four-hour pass for the night. But the big return to normalcy comes Monday, when he returns home full time.

“The support of everyone has been great,” Vitiello said. “I just can’t wait to get back home.”

Tyler Vitiello, far left, with this Saddle Brook teammates at Thursday's dinner.
Vitiello suffered the injury on a kickoff return against Glen Rock. He left the field without feeling or movement in his legs and there was serious concern that he might be paralyzed.

But after nine hours of emergency surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center, Vitiello began his long road back. He’ll continue his recovery at Kessler with three outpatient visits per week for the next several months.

The road back has not been easy. His family has stayed with him throughout, providing him support. And friends visit regularly.

“He’s counting the days until he can go home,” said Tyler’s mother, Christine, as she looked around the room. “He misses this.”

Christine said doctors have called Tyler’s recovery a miracle. But it’s also come with a lot of hard work from Tyler. He’s had to push every day to regain functions like his ability to walk, or to use his hands.

“The hardest part has been going from nothing to getting everything back,” Vitiello said.

But on this night, as you looked at Vitiello and his family and his friends, it was easy to see that the hard work was worth it.

“It’s the best day ever,” Christine said, tears in her eyes.

E-mail: vasqueza@northjersey.com 

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