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Paralyzed firefighter vows to walk again; making progress in recovery

Posted at 9:32 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-19 00:04:33-04

There’s a third-degree burn scar on Vince Castelly's left elbow and more covered by his clothes.

The Fort Lauderdale firefighter didn’t get it on the job, rather after a car crashed into him driving home to Loxahatchee last May.

Now, he is burning on the inside.

“It just feels like fire,” he said, working out on a machine, peddling both his arms and legs to simulate walking. “I’m pushing myself.  So the more I push, the more pain I feel.”

It’s the good kind of pain.  It means the nerves in his feet can finally communicate again with his brain.  His broken spine paralyzed him.

“Every now and then, I have a dream about walking, you know?” he said.

Three days a week, he’s at the Center for Neuro Recoveryin North Palm Beach.

“Maybe it’s because of his firefighter background, his professional background. Maybe it’s just because of the way he was brought up. He brings to the game mental fortitude that is so superior in so many levels,” says Kevin Mullin.

Mullin is one of the founders of the center.  He broke his neck 15 years ago, coming in from a swim in Boca Raton when a wave caught him wrong.

“This is different than your traditional physical therapy or occupational therapy,” he explained. “This is comprehensive activity-based strength training.”

Vince is at the center about three and half hours, three days a week working with the trainers.

“This gym is one of a kind,” he said. “They treat me like I am family.”

He spent two weeks in a coma, had a tracheal tube in for four months.  Now, he can shave again on his own.

“I’m more independent than I ever was since the injury,” he said.

About two months after the crash, his wife gave birth to Daniel, their second son.  They named him after one of the officers who responded to the scene.

“Once my son was born, it was my source of motivation. I’m like, 'you know what? I’m going to try to walk with you,' ” he said.

Once a burn heals on his leg, he’ll graduate to a standing machine bringing him one step closer to his goal.

I asked him, “Who’s going to walk first?”

“He’s going to walk first. I think he’s going to walk first,” he said about his young son.  “My journey, it’s going to take me far.”

On June 2nd, the public is invited to an event to raise money for his recovery at King’s Point in Delray Beach (7000 West Atlantic Avenue) from 4 pm-9 pm.  Admission is $20, kids 12 and under are free.

There will be food, various entertainment, and a raffle.

To learn more about Vince’s story, click here.

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