SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) — A veteran Santa Cruz surfer who was paralyzed after a wave slammed him into a rocky cliff head-first is defying the odds, six months after the accident.
“He’s definitely a miracle,” said Veronica Hart.
Her husband, Brian Hart, should be on a ventilator and shouldn’t be able to move his limbs. He is paralyzed from the chest down. However, Brian is able to move his hands and said he sometimes has limited mobility of his legs as well.
Last July, a Surf Line camera caught the moment that changed his life forever when the well-known surfer crashed into a cliff at the popular surf spot Steamers Lane.
He had pulled back on a wave when he saw that another surfer had taken it. But that move caused the wave to curl on top of him, pushing him into the rocks and causing him to lose consciousness.
He said the only moment he remembers that day was waking up in the hospital.
Veronica, who had been taking pictures of their teenage son while he was surfing, was watching from the shore. She said she saw several surfers struggling in the powerful waves to rescue Brian, but had no idea it was him at the time.
Their teenage son, himself a professional surfer, had just gotten out of the water minutes before.
“And he was just screaming, ‘It’s dad, mom, it’s dad,'” she said.
While a good Samaritan gave Brian CPR, the couple said their son decided to jump in to help. The 15-year-old had just learned the lifesaving skill months before in Hawaii from a lifeguard through his surf sponsor, Volcom.
“[He] just held my hand and was yelling, was calling me back, calling me, ‘Dad, don’t leave me, dad,'” Brian said. “He was the first to do chest compressions, which is what really saved my brain and my life, ultimately.”
The Harts believe it was a chain of events that saved Brian’s life, including the decision by the lifeguard to teach their son CPR and the good Samaritans who risked their lives to rescue Brian out of the water that day.
“One hundred percent, everything has been a miracle,” Veronica said.
Brian said he believes he will fully recovery from his injuries and even surf one day again.
“I love that I’m still alive,” he said. “I truly want to thank all the people involved in my rescue that day.”