20-year-old paralyzed after falling from balcony

Dan McDonald

Twenty-year-old Justin Graceffa has faced challenges before.

As a child with dyslexia, he struggled with understanding the written word, but more than made up for it with his skills as a musician.

Now, he faces his most formidable challenge.

On Aug. 5, the Sudbury native fell from a third-floor balcony at his Durham, N.H., apartment building. The fall left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Barring a miracle, said his mother, Delores, Justin Graceffa will never walk again. His father, Robert Graceffa, when asked, refused to close the door on such a possibility.

"We're not positive about anything right now," he said.

More than two weeks after the fall, Justin is recovering in the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. He has very little feeling in his hands and his legs, said his mother, but is conscious and lucid. He could stay in Spaulding for another 12 weeks before he is allowed to return to his parents' home at 72 Lakeside Ave., said Robert Graceffa.

Upon returning home from his Durham Marketplace job on the night of Aug. 5, Graceffa realized he did not have the key to his apartment. After failed attempts to reach his roommate, Graceffa tried to drop down from a third-floor balcony onto his second-floor balcony to enter his apartment. He slipped.

"They always kept the sliding door on the balcony open," his mother said.

Justin Graceffa had moved to Durham for the summertime after having completed five straight semesters of coursework at the Berklee College of Music. Already an accomplished guitarist and saxophone player, Graceffa had also begun playing drums and keyboards while at Berklee, said his mother.

Earlier this summer, he had moved in with a high school friend who was attending the University of New Hampshire after a Berklee professor suggested he take some time to get away from the school and the city.

"He hadn't had a summer break yet," said Dolores Graceffa.

As a dyslexic child, Justin Graceffa had struggled to comprehend words, but never had a problem reading music, said his mother.

He overcame his dyslexia to gain local, state and national recognition for his work with environmental technology during his tenure at the Lexington-based Minuteman Regional High School, according to his mother. He graduated in 2005 with honors.

Dolores Graceffa suggested that her son may one day compose music.

"You can do that on a computer," she said.

The Graceffas have set up a benefit fund called Justin's Recovery through the DCU Federal Credit Union.

People interested in making donations to the fund can send checks to the DCU Federal Credit Union on 100 Powdermill Road in Acton.

"He needs a wheelchair, he needs a wheelchair van, and we're going to have to make modifications (to our home)," said his mother.

Dan McDonald of The MetroWest Daily News can be reached at 508 490 7475 or at dmcdonal@cnc.com.