It was the vacation of a lifetime, a chance for Las Vegas teen, Matt Etzell, to hit the waves in Hawaii – but tragically, the trip left him with a rare surf-related condition.
According to NBC3News, adventure enthusiast Matt was looking forward to taking a surf lesson in Hawaii, but during the experience, he felt something wasn’t right.
“Within that first or second wave, I noticed my lower back was starting to feel tense,” Matt told the news outlet. “Soon as I touched the sand, my legs pretty much just gave out.”
Turns out Matt didn’t just suffer a pinched nerve. A trip to the hospital revealed much worse. The 18-year-old was diagnosed with Surfer’s myelopathy – an incredibly rare injury to his T10 vertebrae. The condition is so unusual that researchers have documented less than 100 cases in the last 20 years.
“It really just happened on a surfboard, standing up arching my back, and somehow ended up with me being paralyzed,” Matt told NBC3News. “It was something I couldn’t wrap my head around for a while, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the situation today.”
NBC3News reports Matt will now face months of recovery to try and regain sensation in his spine.
According to the National Library of Medicine, Surfer’s myelopathy is a spinal cord injury that can affect inexperienced surfers. Although most patients have a complete, or near-complete recovery, complete paraplegia has occurred.