Aviation Structural Mechanic Chief Petty Officer Fran “Mac” McNeil was in the Military for 22 years; in 2003 he was injured badly in an accident while on the flight deck of the U.S.S. George Washington Navy Aircraft Carrier.

We were off the coast of Virginia conducting Carrier Qualifications for new pilots entering the fleet. An F-18 Hornet came in for a landing and an arresting gear cable snapped. Thankfully I put my hands up, which may have saved my life. I sustained serious injuries including a metal plate put in my forearm, all my fingers have pins in them, I lost my pinkie finger due to an infection, I had head trauma and a spinal Cord injury. I was in a coma for 2 weeks, revived 3 times, and the doctors said I would never walk again. I was hospitalized for several months in a civilian Hospital in Virginia, and eventually flown to Spaulding Rehab in Boston. 

In February 2004 I was discharged from the hospital and my road to recovery was going to be a long one. The VA was helping me out tremendously with therapy but I knew I needed more. I contacted the Y and I was lucky to receive financial assistance so I could further my recovery on my own. The Y helped me with my membership and paired me up with Frank Ricardo, one of their Personal Trainers on staff. When I started coming to the Y I was in a wheelchair. With the help of the Personal Trainer and other staff I began to see big improvements.

I will never forget the day that I went into the Y walking on my own for the first time. Every staff member I passed had words of encouragement for me. With the loss of a finger and mobility in others it was also difficult to change the machine settings while I exercise, but the staff always went out of their way to help me set up the machines. After a few months of help from staff I soon began to change the settings on my own and needed less and less help.  Today I am able to workout on my own (5 days a week) without a Personal Trainer and I do not need the assistance of a walker. The staff continues to be amazing in helping me even to this day. 

The steps I made may seem small but they have been huge in my road to recovery. Currently my membership is still covered by the Y and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. The Y played a major role in my recovery and I will always be thankful for the support that was offered to me.