Atlanta man paralyzed after seemingly minor surfing injury during Hawaii honeymoon

Atlanta newlyweds came to the islands two weeks ago to celebrate their honeymoon, but the vacation took a heartbreaking turn.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 11:19 AM EDT
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - What was supposed to be a dream honeymoon turned into a nightmare after an Atlanta man found himself paralyzed in a surfing incident.

Brendan Town and his wife Cho Park spent their first week in Oahu, and their next stop was a trip to the Big Island, Atlanta News First’s sister station Hawaii News Now reported.

Last Thursday, Town signed up for a surf lesson in Kona, which got off to a thrilling start.

“So excited, that adrenaline is building up,” Town said. “I hear them shouting pop up, pop up, so I pop up and felt a tiny little twinge in my back and was like, oh, might have pulled a muscle or something, nothing major. Rode the wave out, jumped off the board, swam around, had fun.”

Initially, everything seemed OK as he surfed for an hour more before meeting his wife for lunch.

“We have pizza, we eat and by the time, that we’re ready to pay and to leave, I realize that oh, I can’t move, like, this is bizarre to me,” Town said. “I try to stand up again and I just like, slump right back down into the chair.”

He immediately went to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed him with surfer’s myelopathy, a rare non-traumatic spinal cord injury due to hyperextension of the lower back.

He’s now confined to a wheelchair and paralyzed from the waist down.

What’s baffling is the injury just seemed like a minor tweak.

“I’ve been hit by a car biking in Atlanta and that was insanity and I literally popped up and nothing was wrong with me,” Town said. “This is just the tiniest little pinch and then the time started ticking and before I knew it, I just couldn’t move.”

His life was completely altered in an instant, but Town is staying positive, determined to recover for his wife and their baby boy due in February.

“The hardest part of this is not being able to be there for her how I’m normally there for her,” Town said. “Now she has to be there for me and that puts strain and pressure on her when it’s just not needed. She’s gotta focus on taking care of herself and the baby.”

Recovery time from this injury varies from days to years. Town has already started physical therapy and says he’s feeling a bit stronger each day.

“I know that I’m gonna get better one way or another,” he said. “Even if I’m in a wheelchair, that’s not gonna slow me down from being the greatest papa in the world.”

The couple is flying back to Atlanta this weekend and raising funds to cover thousands of dollars in medical expenses. If you’d like to help, click here.