He could have been in a wheelchair for life, but Gehsmann’s a go-getter, even after a broken neck

Posted by Press Release on June 16, 2015 at 10:11 am under College, High School | Comments are off for this article

from the Guilford County Schools web site:

Brothers, Accident Inspire Western Guilford Grad

Maybe a little sibling rivalry isn’t so bad. It’s certainly brought the best out in the Gehsmann boys.

Oldest brother Ryan graduated from Western High School in 2011, and earned a degree in finance from University of South Carolina last month. Greg, the middle, graduated from Western as well, one upping his brother by claiming Valedictorian honors, and he’s finishing his business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Both brothers were standouts on the soccer and lacrosse fields.

Then there’s Kevin, the youngest, who is graduating Valedictorian, accepted to Duke University where he will study engineering and play football. It should also be noted he did all this after he broke his neck.

“Sometimes I tell him he’s over-confident. I’m still the oldest,” Ryan said recently, teasing his little brother.

The family wasn’t laughing back in the summer of 2009 when Kevin was lying in a hospital bed with a broken C7 vertebrae. The accident happened, perhaps not surprisingly, when Kevin attempted something he and his older brothers liked to challenge each other with – diving across floating swim-lane dividers. Kevin’s mother Jackie still gets emotional when talking about first hearing from the ER doctor.

“It was just unbelieveable,” Jackie said. “I thought he was going to need stitches and then the nurse at the emergency clinic told us he has a compound fracture and they’ve called 911 to take him to the hospital in an ambulance. There wasn’t a pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital so they air-lifted him to Wake Forest. Each time I just got more and more terrified.”

Kevin was lucky, a fraction of a centimeter more and he would be in a wheelchair today. Instead, he only had to wear a neckbrace for three months. Doctors told Jackie and her husband, Kurt, that Kevin’s physical strength and youth saved him. That also might be why Kevin thought he could play football just months after the accident.

“I really wanted to play. My brothers played soccer and so did I, but I wanted something with more contact,” he said. “Looking back on it, I understand how crazy it was to think the doctors would let me play my 7th-grade year.”

The doctors gave him their blessing the following year but his parents were more than a little apprehensive.

“I was glad he couldn’t play that year and I took some convincing the next year,” Jackie said. “I wanted to know he was going to be okay. That first game was nerve-racking.”

Kevin fell in love with football instantly and built an impressive high school career for himself. Today, he’s six-feet tall, weighs 225 lbs. and can bench over 300 lbs. He’s a Renaissance player, taking the field as a linebacker, running back, slot receiver, and kicker. He’ll be a preferred walk-on with Duke this fall and aims to earn a starting spot.

“He’s got a great personality. He’s really engaging,” said Chris Causey, Western’s varsity football coach and history teacher. “He’s a very gifted writer, very analytical, he’s very mature in that regard. He’s been a tremendous ambassador for our school.”

Kevin has deep praise for Causey as well. He says his coach has helped shape him as a man as much as his own family. He gives a good bit of credit to the rest of Western High as well, noting he doesn’t think he could have achieved as much without the school.

Aside from getting straight A’s and scoring a 1,930 on the SAT, Kevin also captained both the football and lacrosse teams and was a member of the GENTS Club, a leadership club focused on preparing young men for college and beyond.

All of those things have been important, Kevin said, but there’s nothing that motivated him more than having two older brothers setting the bar high.

“I wanted to do everything that they did at Western and more,” he said. “I knew if I could do that, I’d be in good company.”

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