There’s almost nothing Melissa loves more than the ocean. She is an avid scuba diver, photographer and nature lover. On Sunday, September 30th, she was boating with some friends in Monterey, CA, intending to scuba dive, when they spotted humpback whales lunge feeding. Their group decided to stop and watch them from a safe distance. They watched the whales for about 30 minutes, and as they motored away, a whale arched out of the water on the starboard (left) side bow (front) of the boat. Melissa was seated as a spotter on the bow of the boat and yelled ‘WHALE’ just as the whale made contact with the boat – there was no time to react as the boat struck the back of the whale – it felt like they hit a brick wall.
Her three friends were behind the windshield, near the wheel, and were thrown to the deck. Melissa, being on the front of the boat, was thrown backwards, and broke through the windshield with the right side of her head, then tossed the opposite direction, landing against the window frame and the railing of the boat. Her friends called 911, stabilized her and held her head as they headed back to shore. The EMT’s were waiting for them when they returned to the dock. Melissa, needless to say, was seriously injured.
Link to WCCO/CBS Minneapolis News Article: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2018/10/15/minnesota-woman-injured-by-humpback-whale/
Melissa was taken to the trauma unit at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, where she has received intensive medical care treatment for a long list of head and upper body injuries. She has little to no feeling, and limited motion in her left arm/hand, due to a shoulder injury involving her brachial plexus, which is a group of nerves that extend from the spinal cord, controlling muscles in the hand, wrist and arm. In addition, she has a broken jaw, a broken rib, a cracked shoulder blade, a cracked clavicle, and small fractures in her spine. She’s had staples on the right of her head and contusions on the back of her head. Her head injuries are being monitored closely, since one of the MRIs detected a small amount of bleeding (now stopped) that led to some temporary vision problems and headaches.
One of Melissa’s neurologists said she suffered catastrophic trauma injuries, and we know by being with her since the accident, that the recovery time will be long. She was very happy to be recently transferred to the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at the hospital, where her recovery has begun. While we don’t know how much arm function will return once the swelling subsides and the bruising heals, we do know that in the months ahead she will need therapy, and possibly surgery, to restore as much functionality in her arm and hand as possible. We also know that Melissa has an extremely positive attitude, and she looks forward to resuming her work life, scuba diving, underwater photography, eating without a straw, and visiting with her friends and family. Her optimism is contagious, and she is determined to not let any of this get her down. She is also gentle and caring. When her sister was finally able to talk to her after the accident, she made sure to tell her that they determined the whale was ‘ok’.
Melissa, her friends and family are very thankful to the Monterey Rescue Team and the Natividad Medical Center Staff for their care, support and encouragement.
We are asking for help due to the mounting medical bills and living expenses.