So today I was out surfing at Pismo Beach, had just kicked off a wave and noticed this paddleboarder just floating next to his board. Eyes open, but not moving when the waves washed over him.
I paddled over, calling out, “Are you okay?”
He didn’t respond.
But when I reached him, he was conscious and could speak — what he couldn’t do was move from the neck down. He’d had hit his head on the ocean floor after falling off his board. Blood welled on his forehead.
So I gathered him in my arms the best I could to keep his head out of the water and called for help, help, HELP! People paddled in, paddled over and we managed to get him out of the water and on to shore. People including his son, who had come streaking over, “Oh my god, that’s my dad!”
I think that moment was even worse than the initial one. The immediate fear etched on the kid’s face, the crack in his voice — although he was certainly brave and managed to stay strong — oh, god, it was just awful.
And we held his hands and rubbed his feet and tried to be careful and reassuring. The paramedics arrived, took over, shifted him from the paddleboard we’d used to carry him out of the ocean onto a stretcher.
Last we heard the dad is in critical condition. That’s all the hospital would say — of course.
When we were waiting for the emergency personnel, he did say he could feel our hands on his hands and on his feet and shoulders, despite not being able to move them. I hope that means his spine isn’t broken, that he’s not actually permanently paralyzed.
What a thing to happen. It’s just sort of hanging in my brain, barely real and yet all-too.