Goalie Kicks Back With Recovery


WEST HAVEN–When goalie James Hilaire stepped onto the soccer field at Merrimack College one day in September, the thought never crossed his mind that he would be leaving the game in a helicopter.

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The senior Criminal Justice major from Haiti suffered a critical head injury on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008 when a Merrimack player accidentally broke his jaw. The player’s knee slammed into Hilaire’s jaw as they both raced toward the ball. The impact caused a vein to pop in Hilaire’s brain, putting him into an eight-day coma. Five months later, Hilaire is still struggling to put together the pieces.

“Everything’s coming back little by little,” he said, “I remember the game though. I remember the first half but not the second half.”

Memory loss seems trivial when compared to the list of side effects doctors expected Hilaire to experience-if he even survived in the first place. “Two doctors at the first hospital said ‘no way he’s going to make it,'” Hilaire said. Coming out of his coma and getting back on his feet, Hilaire’s recovery has been nothing short of a miracle.

Hilaire doesn’t hesitate to deny that he shouldn’t be alive right now. Most people that suffered the same injury also died from it. “To have that recovery is just amazing,” he said, “I almost lost my life.”

After his coma, Hilaire remained at the Boston Medical Center for three weeks. While he was there, he received nothing but support from his friends, family, teammates, and schoolmates.
“I still haven’t finished all the e-mails and cards that people sent me,” he said, “I’m really thankful and may God bless everyone that’s been praying for me.”

The largest group affected by Hilaire’s injury was undoubtedly his teammates. With eight games completed and eight left in the season, the UNH men’s soccer team struggled to play confidently. “The injury hit them big. [It] was hurting them while they were playing…they played scared,” Hilaire said. After a heart-wrenching season, the team was in for a surprise when Hilaire and his family made an appearance at the Senior Day game at Kayo Field.
“My teammates are incredible,” he said, “I love them all.”

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With Hilaire attending physical therapy sessions three times a week and taking great strides with his condition, the question of everyone’s mind is when will he be back on the field?

“After therapy, I would say a year or so,” he said grinning.  The 25-year-old can’t wait to step back onto the field on his own terms. “I want to get back on the field,” he said, “I don’t want people to say ‘he’s not playing because he was injured.'”

Hilaire plans on returning to UNH in the fall to finish his degree, which gives him one more season where he wants to be most: the soccer field.