A Life Changing Day – Eman’s Spinal Cord Injury and Rehabilitation

Sometimes in life, there are events that make you remember just how lucky you are to be alive and healthy. One of our newest clients is Eman, and it’s been quite the ride so far. We’ve been so moved talking with Eman and his family, we wanted to share a bit of his story about his spinal cord injury here for all of you.

Emmanuel Gilligan, who goes by Eman, is an American citizen. He has lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the past 17 years, with his wife and four children.

Eman is an accomplished musician. While his studio work is the family’s primary source of income, he, his wife, Julia, and three of their children also perform with him in many different venues.  They also regularly perform voluntarily for the poor and infirm as well, sharing messages of hope and love.

On March 5th of this year, Eman was leaving a bank in a Rio suburb after he had withdrawn some money. Two men on a motorcycle were targeting him and chased him as he drove off.  Although he desperately tried to lose them, they were able to corner him. As they roared up to his car, the man on the front of the motorcycle ordered the man behind him. “Kill him!”. The man shot Eman through the driver’s side window.  The 9mm bullet was fired at close range and entered his left arm. It went through his left lung and lodged in his right shoulder, where it remains.

This happened at 1:00 in the afternoon, in a neighborhood where luckily people summoned help immediately. And an ambulance rushed Eman to the largest government hospital in Rio (Miguel Couto).  The doctors told the family later that it was a miracle Eman was alive. As they have very few patients survive being shot with a 9mm at point-blank range.

Spinal Cord Injury

After Eman’s breathing was stabilized (his lung was perforated), Eman was able to tell the doctors that he had no sensation, feeling or control of his legs. X-rays and CAT scans showed the bullet had grazed vertebrae, sending 3 small fragments into his spinal cord.  The velocity and intense heat of the passing bullet also created what the neurosurgeons in Rio described as a lesion on his spinal cord.

10 days into his hospitalization, Eman regained breathing function as his lung drained and began to re-inflate. And he began having sensations that he described as feelings of ants or insects crawling up and down his legs.  Neurosurgeons initially dismissed this as a “psychological phenomena” that occurs sometimes with paraplegics. But after re-examining him, they proceeded with an operation to remove 3 tiny bone fragments at the T7-T8 vertebrae.

A week after the surgery, an ambulance took Eman home, where he remained for a week.

A urinary tract infection and large pressure ulcer that developed while in the hospital worsened in the week he was home. So he returned to the government hospital for treatment of both conditions.

After three more weeks in the hospital, Eman again returned home.  Although he has had increased feeling and sensitivity to touch in his legs, he has no control over them. And he has been experiencing terribly painful spasms, day and night. The pain, the lack of sleep because of the pain. The necessity of another return to the hospital for plastic surgery needed to patch up the pressure ulcer. The many fears he faces for himself and his family. As you can imagine, he is going through an extremely tough and trying time physically, emotionally and psychologically.

While Eman’s family is so grateful to the hardworking (overworked) doctors and nurses at the government hospital in Rio who saved his life when he was bleeding to death from the initial gunshot, the level of care he received after he was out of intensive care was frankly, appalling.

Because of the large pressure ulcer on his back’s sacral area, Eman cannot sit for a long flight from Rio to the U.S. So travel arrangements have been very difficult, to say the least. But in the past couple of weeks, they overcame this seemingly insurmountable obstacle! Thanks to Uncle Sam and the Victims of Crime Dept. of the FBI. They have graciously arranged a special medevac flight that fly to Brazil and pick up Eman. It takes him from Rio to Atlanta, GA.

Spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation

In Atlanta, where Eman’s mom lives, the Shepherd Center, a renowned institute for spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation, has agreed to evaluate and treat him.  This ambulatory flight and acceptance into the Shepherd Center in Atlanta are BIG answers to prayer. And we want to THANK everyone who has been praying for Eman’s recovery.

Julia has kept a detailed, photo-filled blog for relatives and friends of the family, where many more details of the shooting and the day-to-day events that have transpired since can be found:  www.emmanuelguitarman.blogspot.com

A news article about the shooting that appeared in the Rio Times can be found here: https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-daily/american-musician-shot-in-rio/

Another Rio Times article about a fundraiser held by the expat community in Rio for Eman can be found here: https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-entertainment/rio-community-throws-gilligan-fundraiser/

If you would like to hear a beautiful song and prayer written and performed by Eman, “Lead Me to the Rock that is Higher than I,” please click here: https://yourlisten.com/channel/content/16962095/EG_Lead_Me_to_the_Rock

Another inspiring song, “Third Option,” which Eman wrote for his teenage daughter Larissa, can be found here: https://yourlisten.com/channel/content/16962091/Emmanuel_Gilligan_Third_Option

The entire Gilligan family extends their heartfelt thanks to each of you who have expressed such concern and love for Eman in this time of crisis. We know we are facing an uphill struggle to obtain the healing and restoration we now need.