Recovery process beginning for Brunswick native paralyzed while practicing gymnastics

Jordan McClinton, 18, will begin rehab at Shepherd Center in Atlanta

Jordan McClinton, a Glynn Academy graduate and freshman on the cheerleading team at Georgia Tech, suffered a spinal cord injury on April 20 and was paralyzed below the waist.
Jordan McClinton, a Glynn Academy graduate and freshman on the cheerleading team at Georgia Tech, suffered a spinal cord injury on April 20 and was paralyzed below the waist. (Family of Jordan McClinton)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The milestone goals now are the little mundane things from everyday life.

The standing. The sitting. The walking and running.

Those are gifts.

Now, they are all targets for Jordan McClinton.

Jordan, a Glynn Academy graduate and freshman cheerleader at Georgia Tech, suffered a spinal injury on April 20 while practicing at his parents’ house in Brunswick. Jordan was paralyzed from the waist down and has been at UF Health Jacksonville ever since.

Friday, Jordan, 18, will travel to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta to begin therapy, and prayerfully, his recovery, said his parents, Domenic and Vickie. It’s not far from where Jordan attends college, and Georgia Tech team doctors and cheer coaches are excited to have him up that way so they can see him.

“You’re prayerful that it’s not life-threatening, then you go into the mode of, ‘OK, we can move forward, into full recovery mode,’” Domenic said.

Domenic said that Jordan was practicing like normal when he “didn’t complete the tumble or flip and ended up landing on his head.” Although he still has feeling below his waist, Jordan has no movement in his lower extremities.

Jordan is, however, stable enough to begin the first phase of his recovery. His family said the support has been substantial and that it has come from all over.

“We’re so excited about it, it’s something that I had been praying for and waiting to happen,” Vickie said of the move to the Shepherd Center, one of the most prominent brain and spinal injury rehabilitation facilities in the country. “We’ve felt that sense of partnership since we got here, even right after the accident. I felt the community came along and embraced us.”

A baseball player in high school at Glynn Academy and now a member of the Yellow Jackets cheer team and an active member of the student council, Jordan is ready for the challenge.

“He’s in great spirits, he’s anxious to start physical therapy,” Domenic said. “His goal is to be fully recovered. He’s young. Strong. Healthy. He’s pushing for that. He’s a prime candidate to recover from this type of injury.”

They didn’t have to look far for inspiration.

While in Jacksonville, the McClintons said that they became aware of a local resident, Tim Callahan, whose story is well-known in the area. In 2010, Callahan was playing in a flag football game when a collision with another player left him paralyzed from the neck down.

It took Callahan years, but he made a stunning recovery.

His Tim Callahan Inspiration Foundation was borne out of the trauma and aftermath of his accident and remains active across the First Coast. Upon the suggestion from a doctor, Domenic said that he and Vickie contacted Callahan, whose story and response are uplifting.

“We read about it and reached out to him and it continued from there,” Domenic said. “When Jordan recovers, he’ll be able to do the same for others. We know to trust God, that He has a purpose in this. Once he’s recovered, he’ll be able to help others.”

Callahan posted the story on his social media channels and asked for a bit of sports help. Jordan, who was born in Louisiana and is a diehard LSU fan, would certainly have his spirits lifted through any Tigers-related support. Jaguars receiver DJ Chark responded not long after the initial post that he was praying for Jordan.

Jordan’s parents said one thing that’s often understated has become so important through this chapter of their lives — don’t take things for granted.

The little things, rising up from a chair or walking to the refrigerator, are precious.

“One of the things he mentioned was sitting in a chair, and he’ll get there,” Vickie said. “His birthday is next month and he’ll set some goals for himself.”

Added Domenic: “He’ll check those off and set new goals.”

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