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After freak quarry fall, Henrico man’s 14-year ‘rebirth’ defies the odds

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Like a chess board, life can be a series of calculated decisions, but sometimes an unexpected move can be devastating.

Peter Grois said his son, Paul, is lucky to be alive, let alone playing a game.

“It was hard,” Peter Grois said. "The doctors had no prognosis. Some suggested we pull the plug.”

Paul and friends were hiking Belle Isle on June 5, 2003, when the then 19-year-old fell into an abandoned rock quarry along the banks of the James River.

“I get a call from MCV saying your son has been in an accident,” Paul’s mother, Dawn Grois, said. “We had to make a decision whether to keep him alive or not.”

Paul Grois

Paul Grois

The once talented soccer player suffered a traumatic brain injury and doctors feared the worst.

“It hits you like a sledgehammer,” Peter Grois said.

Paul’s hospital stay lasted four months and the prospects looked grim.

“My whole body was frozen it seemed," Paul Grois said. "I couldn’t move anything. The only thing I could do was breathe."

However, through grueling physical therapy and a burning desire to recover, Paul started improving.

“At some point he started to look at himself not disabled, not the same Paul as he was before, but as a new Paul -- a rebirth,” Dawn Grois said.

The 14-year journey has been excruciatingly slow, but Paul is showing promise.

“The stimulation and repetition of certain movements has helped him a lot,” Peter Grois said.

The 34-year-old lives on his own in an apartment and is expected to graduate from John Tyler Community College this fall.

“I am trying to be more independent,” Paul Grois said.

This hopeless romantic’s creativity blossoms Paul pens three poems every day and incredibly, Paul is re-mastering his beloved guitar.

“He is making progress and still going,” Peter Grois said.

WTVR CBS 6 Chief Photographer Brad Wilson shoots Paul and his parents.

WTVR CBS 6 Chief Photographer Brad Wilson shoots Paul and his parents.

Another sure sign that Paul is turning a corner is proving he is king at chess where he often checkmates his father and most importantly his disability.

“It is possible to come back from a devastating injury and he is my hero," Peter Grois said.

Once he graduates with an Associate’s Degree in Social Services, Paul would like to help others.

Paul and his family trek to the spot of his accident on Belle Isle every June 5 to prove that his injury will not defeat him.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com