On Wednesday, November 24th, 2021, Matt (18 yrs old) was on the beach in Maui with his family, taking his first surfing lesson with his dad John, sister Taya and brother Sam. His mom, Allyson, watched and took silly pics from the beach as they learned surfing basics and attempted to catch their first waves. Matt got up on the board and held the waves for the first time. He was surfing! Something he had always dreamed of doing. While he was maneuvering on the board (paddling, standing up, sitting, lying down) something in his lower back was not feeling right. He brushed it off at first, but with every wave he stood up on, his legs were feeling shaky and his back was weak. He began feeling nauseous and decided it was time to head to shore. When he got to the beach, he could barely support himself and practically collapsed in pain. The pain continued to get more intense and, in his head, Matt began to tell himself that he had lost feeling and movement in most of his lower body. It was clear that Matt needed to get care and quickly. As his dad and brother held him up to get him to the car, Matt’s feet dragged. He no longer had the ability to put one foot in front of the other. By that evening, Matt was in the ICU at Maui Medical Center with little to no feeling below his waist.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED?
When Matt was laying prone on the surfboard, paddling and arching his back, the hyperextension cut off the blood flow to his spinal cord at the T10 vertebrae. Matt suffered a non-traumatic spinal cord injury called Surfer’s Myelopathy, a version of paralysis of the lower body that is very rare. There appears to be less than 80 documented cases of Surfers Myelopathy in the world over the last 20 years.
During Matt’s first couple days at Maui Medical Center, he was treated with hypertension therapy, essentially increasing his blood pressure, hoping to increase the blood flow to his spinal cord and regain what had been lost. This treatment was not as effective as they had hoped, but he was able to transfer out of the ICU to a regular bed in the hospital. They continue to manage Matt’s pain as best they can and keep his legs and feet in a good position for blood flow. By day 5 at Maui Medical Center, Matt has begun physical therapy and is learning how to transfer into a wheelchair. He says it’s been nice to sit up and see more of the ocean! This week, Matt will transfer by air ambulance from Maui Medical Center to Craig Rehab hospital in Denver, one of the top spinal rehab centers in the country. Here, he will receive intensive rehabilitation therapy. During this time, John and Allyson will be traveling between their home in Las Vegas and Craig in Denver so that one of them can be with Matt through the intensive rehabilitation he will receive at Craig. One of them will be at home with Taya and Sam in Las Vegas as they continue with high school and their activities at home, while the other is with Matt in Denver. Once Matt returns home, he will continue to face months and likely years of treatment, therapy and rehabilitation in hopes of restoring his spinal functioning and recover as much mobility as possible.
Matt is a vibrant, thoughtful, kindhearted, active and adventurous young man. He is an all-around action sports junkie who loves to skateboard and scooter. He managed to teach himself how to do a backflip this summer on his scooter!! Matt has had plenty of bumps, bruises, scrapes and scares, but has never broken a bone or even had stitches from everything he has done.
Matt has a long and challenging road ahead. He is looking forward with hope, optimism, determination and the goal of being able to skateboard and scooter again.
To follow Matt’s journey, please visit his CaringBridge site at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mattsjourneytoride.
Matt, John, Allyson, Taya and Sam want to thank you for all the love and support! They greatly appreciate all the messages and prayers, positive vibes, hopes and the good energy that has been sent Matt’s way.
How can you help?
As you can imagine, Matt and his family will incur significant medical bills, additional living expenses and extensive travel costs over the coming months and potentially years. This GoFundMe is intended to help them with those significant expenses that insurance won’t cover so they can focus on fully supporting Matt in this journey.
If you are unable to Donate, your love & support through prayer, healing energy and positive vibes is appreciated beyond measure.