After spending weeks in the hospital due to a horrific accident, former East Carolina University track and field distance runner Pol Solanellas is now back in Viladecavalls, Spain, healing from his injuries while healing.
Solanellas was in an accident on Feb. 12, when he was hit by a car in the evening. The accident left him in the hospital for five weeks from what Solanellas described as a “traumatic brain injury” in a Facebook post. But Solanellas is looking to come back to ECU get his doctorate in business management.
During his time at ECU, Solanellas was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District 3 Team after his senior year, as well as ECU’s Most Outstanding Male Scholar-Athlete for the 2016-17 year. He also excelled on the academic side, as he earned the International Graduate Student Award from ECU’s Office of Global Affairs.
ECU business professor Amy McMillan has talked with Solanellas everyday, checking in to see how his recovery is coming along, and said he has continued to have a positive attitude despite what he has dealt with since the accident.
“Pol has had such a positive attitude in all of this,” McMillan said. “He was like, ‘OK this has happened and it’s OK, I just have to focus on getting better.’ The people that wanted to help him speaks to who Pol is as a person. His recovery speaks to his perseverance, his dedication, his drive and it speaks to the support his family has given in all this.”
McMillan and Senior Associate Athletics Director Mike Hanley started a GoFundMe page to help cover Solanellas’ expenses, as well as help him get back to his home country of Spain.
The goal of the project was to raise $15,000, and that goal was surpassed on April 1, to help Solanellas and his mom get back to Spain while covering some of his medical expenses as well. In fact, the project raised around $15,500 to help Solanellas and his family. The GoFundMe page states that any money raised over the amount needed for Solanellas’ medical expenses will be donated to a charity of his choosing, per NCAA rules.
Solanellas had people stay by his side during his stay at the hospital. McMillan and Hanley stayed with him, as well as two close friends and teammates junior Stefano Migliorati and sophomore Nuria Tillo-Prats. He had visitors and support from many people, including ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton, who visited toward the end of Solanellas’ stay in the hospital.
“After spending three weeks at the hospital, and three weeks more doing rehabilitation, I was overwhelmed by the reaction that the accident triggered on my friends, faculty and fellow students,” Solanellas said. “One does not know how many people he or she has reached until he or she goes through something like this. In my case, it gave me the strength to face rehabilitation with a positive attitude to fully recover as quickly as possible.”
The impact Solanellas felt from the love and support of the ECU community touched not only him, but also McMillan and Hanley who wanted to come together for the runner.
Solanellas returned to Spain on March 21 and is currently doing his rehab at the Institut Guttmann in Barcelona. Solanellas said he is progressing favorably according to his doctors while they share their optimism with him each day while helping him get back to 100 percent.
“We are super glad to see Pol recover as fast as he has done so far,” Stefano said. “It was a big scare in the beginning. The fact that a lot of people supported the project was real nice. People loved Pol, and Pol loved people because the love you give, the love you receive, was how it worked.”