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Recovery Fund for Melissa Thomas

$17,211 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 198 people in 8 months
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’. 


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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.

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Just a quick update as the article in the Monterey Herald was also slightly updated ( https://www.montereyherald.com/2019/05/12/after-running-into-a-whale/).


Melissa continues her physical therapy but is also finding that the toll an injury like this can take is also mentally challenging. She works through it daily (sometimes by the minute) and I am continually grateful for all the support she has received from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers. Truly amazing.
What (I believe) is probably the hardest thing for her (besides getting dressed, buttoning buttons, cutting up an apple with one arm/hand...try it!!!...) is that she hasn’t been in the ocean for just over 9 months. This is where she finds her energy, it’s much of what she loves about where she lives, its a place she finds reflection and where she has created many beautifully incredible memories. I can’t imagine how this feels, but she is looking forward to that day when she will be able to do her dives, take photos and be one with the ocean.
It is astonishing what one has to learn to do a new way when faced with injuries such as this.
I recently was out visiting Melissa and while I could see the progress she has made, there are still many things that she can’t do, or has a hard time doing. After 9 months wouldn’t you think she’d be healed..???...
She isn’t. But again, she works on it daily, probably hourly or even by the minute without even realizing what she’s doing.
However, she still seems to have the strangest things happen to her....
She was recently stuck in the woman’s locker room at her gym where she swims when the fire alarm went off! Imagine trying to hurry, get dressed while soaking wet to get outdoors! Or getting home and finding that a bird pooped in her shoe that was at the top of a covered stairwell!
Or continually receiving deliveries for stuff other people ordered (me) where thy forgot to change the address.

As always-thank you to you all, to everyone, who has helped Melissa in any aspect.
All our love.
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Melissa is still in the recovery process and she continues to work hard at her movements, flexibility and strength daily. I just got back from some time out in CA to visit her and help with a few things. Seeing how far she has come since seeing her at Christmas is amazing, but it is also hard to know how much more she has to go. However, she believes she is at about the 1/2 way mark on her healing.
She has more movement in her arm and is still working on the fingers. She still gets some 'burning/tingling' sensations throughout her arm and hand, which are fairly uncomfortable, but this means the nerves are regenerating - WHICH IS GREAT!!!
She was recently interviewed - you can find the article here: https://www.montereyherald.com/2019/05/12/after-running-into-a-whale/. She is looking forward to getting in the water again. **Please note, the article states that I (her sister) was there with her the day of the accident, but I was not. It was her very good friend Stef that they are referencing.**

Thank you again (and again, and again) to everyone. It's been a journey and one that has been much easier because of the love and help from family and friends!
All our best!
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Melissa is recovering every day. I’m to far away to be her closest advocate, but I am one of her biggest (even though I’m the little sis!). Adjusting your life is hard and she is still doing amazing, but it’s still a routine she works through ever day.
I honestly can’t thank everyone enough for all they have, and will do, for Melissa.
If you have a moment to call her, send a message, or visit....she’d love it.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
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FIVE MONTHS AGO:
Melissa’s life was totally changed. She is still healing, and from the outside it appears as though everything is "fine" and she’s looking better... but from the inside (as she says), most days are a blitz-krieg (a war) is going on inside her head. This is only temporary; this too shall pass. And of course we had no idea what the outcome might have been, as it could have easily been much worse. Very, very worse and I am so happy, grateful, thankful, blessed that it wasn’t.

Melissa continues to be her beautifully positive self, but often thinks.....“Can this be over already?" She continues to adjust her routines and each morning she asks herself (with one functioning arm/hand... ), does she really need 90 minutes to get ready.

She has 4 PT/OT appointments each week, and goes to do pool therapy 3x's a week, which is helping her do some motions that her body struggles with on land. Her rotary nerve isn't firing, amongst others, so she still can't move her fingers or push out/move her arm, lift her wrist, etc.

She smiles her beautiful smile and has a positive outlook, but on the inside, there's pain and suffering going on as she tries to get better faster, muster (or master) the new routine, and just make it through day by day. Her attitude is nothing short of amazing and she is extremely positive-but it is hard. The body has its own time-frame. We can't rush healing. Nerves that are damaged heal slower than broken bones.

There are still bills to pay, this accident was not covered by boating insurance - it was a "hit and run" accident (or hit-and-swim, since it was done by a whale).

I have no words to truly describe how thankful I am for all the people who have helped and continue to help. It is hard not being with Melissa-but I know she will persevere!
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$17,211 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 198 people in 8 months
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