Jordan Gowins knew it was going to be an emotional trip, but he didn’t anticipate seeing those who helped save his life when he was a child.
On Thursday, the potentially NFL-bound, Stony Brook star running back visited Stony Brook University Hospital to sign autographs, take photos and spread smiles.
He was doing just that when he bumped into Lorene Mistretta, a registered nurse, who helped Gowins when he was a patient over a decade ago.
“It was crazy,” Gowins told GreaterPortJeff, “It brought me right back.”
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When the Bellport native was 10 years old, he nearly drowned to death. After spending 4-plus minutes unconscious underwater, he was transported to Stony Brook Hospital.
After being revived and undergoing intensive treatment, Gowins spent weeks in the hospital after losing his motor functions. It took him over a year to learn to walk and talk again.
“It brings back a lot of memories, good and bad,” he said. “I remember re-learning how to walk in these hallways again.”
One of the positive highlights Thursday was seeing friendly faces like Mistretta.
After she recognized him, they immediately hugged.
Because of life-saving care from people like the nurses and doctors at Stony Brook, Gowins knows his endgame is to always give back.
“A lot of these kids might not know there are people out there rooting for them,” said Gowins. “When I was here, it felt like there was nothing outside of this.”
Earlier this month, during his pro day performance in front of NFL scouts, 6-0, 230-pound running back raised over $3,000 for the hospital.
“I was able to have such an amazing pro day because I wasn’t doing it for myself,” explained Gowins, who was later brought in by the New York Giants and Jets for workouts.
If he makes it to the pros, he wants to continue to be a beacon for hope for child patients.
“I went from not walking, or being able to talk, to possibility playing professional football,” said Gowins on his journey.
“This will not be the last time I am here,” he added. “I am going to continue to make an impact because I felt like there were people that made an impact on me while I was here and it made all the difference in me being who I am today.”
One of the children to feel his impact was 8-year-old Kaleb Kaess, who couldn’t sleep the night before because he was excited to meet Gowins.
After the two met, Gowins signed a pair of game-worn football gloves, and then the two took a selfie together. Both were smiling ear to ear.
“There is a connection he can make to the children here, he can walk into a room to say ‘Hey I’ve been here, I’ve been through this,’ the kids need that normalization,” said Stony Brook’s child life specialist, Liz Larosa.
Scroll down for more photos by Nicholas Esposito.
Top: Former Stony Brook running back Jordan Gowins takes a selfie with little Kaleb Kaess at Stony Brook University Hospital. (Credit: Stony Brook Medicine)