SUNDAY, February 13, is a day James Mangleson will not easily forget.
It was a sunny morning so he and his wife, Stephanie, decided to head to Boulder Beach near Lennox Head for a surf.
But the day soon turned into a nightmare for the young Lennox Head couple.
James was surfing when he hit his head, hard, on the sand in shallow water. He heard a “cracking sound” before he blacked out.
“When I woke up, I was still in the water and I couldn’t move,” the 29-year-old said. “I just started screaming and screaming. A young guy came up to me and asked, ‘What can I do, what can I do?’.
“Then he went and got some of the other surfers who dragged me back to shore. I was just lying there on my board. I still couldn’t move. I couldn’t feel anything.”
Stephanie rushed to her husband, horrified.
She had no idea what had happened, only that James needed an ambulance straight away.
“The ambulance came and they assessed him and said they wouldn’t do anything until they could get back-up,” she said.
“While we waited for the second ambulance the surfers shaded James with their boards.”
A decision was then made to send for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
James and Stephanie immediately thought the worst.
“I started thinking that James had done something to his spinal cord, that he would never be able to walk again, or work,” Stephanie said.
“It was the worst thing ever. I was just praying for a miracle. I was just beside myself because I was so scared – it was really confronting.”
Police cleared Pat Morton Look-out and, as the ambulance took James from the beach to the lookout, he saw the helicopter flying in.
“I realised that it was coming for me and I was so freaked out,” he said.
After being flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, it was discovered James had fractured five vertebrae. He was temporarily paralysed, but was able to walk out of hospital just four days later.
James now needs six weeks to recover – a long time for an active person who is a self-employed builder.
James and Stephanie want to thank everyone who helped them on the day of his accident – the mystery surfers who brought him on to the beach; the Westpac helicopter crew, including pilot Robert Moore, crewman Jimmy Keough and paramedics Michael Smith and Peter Haron; the ambulance crews and the police.
“We are so grateful to all those people,” Stephanie said.
“If those surfers weren’t there, James might have drowned.
“If the ambulance guys weren’t so careful, he might have done serious damage to his spinal cord.
“But they all did such an amazing job and if it wasn’t for them, our lives would be very different.”
Meanwhile, James says he will be back in the water as soon as he can.
“I can’t wait to get back on the board,” he said.
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