(COVINGTON, La.) — A brotherhood floats around St. Paul’s like a dense fog. It is visible to everyone, and like a warm breeze, one can feel it. A group of St. Paul’s and SSA students got to feel that brotherhood when they welcomed Michael Doherty back to the northshore on Feb. 9. On Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, Doherty suffered a break on his C5 vertebrae and a fracture on his C4 vertebrae during a football game. After emergency surgery and post-surgical recovery at Lakeview Medical Center, he has since been recovering at Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital in Atlanta that specializes in rehabilitation for patients with brain and spinal cord injuries.
“It’s awesome!” junior Michael Doherty said about finally returning to his hometown and home school.
Doherty arrived at the Slidell Municipal Airport at 4:51 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, via private jet on behalf of the Gene Family. His landing was met with scores of family, friends, and supporters after the St. Paul’s administration and student council had spread the word. Upon arriving in his hometown for the first time in months, Doherty was certainly granted a warm welcome from his St. Paul’s brothers.
“He is so excited to be back,” Lisa Doherty, Michael’s mother said, “The first thing he wants to do is to go to St. Paul’s tomorrow morning; that says a lot doesn’t it?”
As Doherty has continued recovering, St. Paul’s has kept him in their hearts and minds as friends have organized prayer services, the mother’s club and student council have sold t-shirts and wristbands, and President Brother Ray Bulliard has continued to include him in the prayer intentions at the beginning of each President’s Assembly.
Although a few of Doherty’s friends traveled to Atlanta to visit, many have awaited his arrival home, having not seen him since he left.
“I feel phenomenal and my spirit has been rejuvenated, honestly,” junior Conrad Robinson said. “It was awesome for him to be back, from a friend’s standpoint.”
“It’s good, it feels good,” junior Zachary Bodenheimer echoed.
Doherty went to visit St. Paul’s campus Friday morning (Feb. 10) at 10:30 a.m., and students in the Main School Building gathered around in the hallway to greet Michael as he proceeded to Bro. Rich Kovach’s English III class during period E.
“He seems to be more happy and back to himself when he is around us,” junior Grant Grosch said.
While Michael visited St. Paul’s campus on Friday, he spent his day walking around campus and visiting his teachers with his close friends and football teammates.
“I really missed him as a friend, and it was really great to spend the day with him,” Robinson said. “He had a crawfish boil, and we hung out with him and just tried to act like the old times, like it’s always been and stuff.”
To many, seeing the hordes of students crowding around Doherty to wish him a good recovery evoked a sense of brotherhood that so many administrators and alumni talk about.
“I definitely feel a sense of the brotherhood, oh yeah,” Robinson said.
After his school visit, Doherty attended a basketball game between Slidell and St. Paul’s in which Slidell pulled off an upset with a buzzer-beater three-point shot, making the final score 67-64. Doherty departed again for Atlanta on Sunday, but is due to return sometime in March. He will then finish out his school year only to return to Shepherd for the summer to undergo another round of rehabilitation.
Doherty has come a long way, but still has a trek ahead of him. Nonetheless, he seems to be absolutely determined, telling WWL-TV that his overall goal in rehabilitation is “To walk again.”
Co-written by Luc Hebert.