Making Beaches Safe So They Can Surf Again
Name: Chad DeSatnick
Injury: C6, C7
Mechanism of Injury: Surfing Accident
Date of Injury: September 30, 2001
For Chad DeSatnick, an avid beach-goer and surfer from age six, surfing has always been a way of life. However, at the age of 24, Chad suffered an injury that changed his relationship with the ocean, and with surfing.
In the fall of 2001, DeSatnick injured his spine while surfing in Cape May, NJ; leaving him with him with a shattered C6 and C7 vertebrae.
"I was kind of in unchartered territory, so I had to take what the neurosurgeon was telling me seriously," says DeSatnick. "But the fact that I was alive and breathing was a bit of a safety net. I definitely had in my head that I wanted to walk and surf again, so I took it as a challenge."
It was this attitude that would eventually lead DeSatnick to get involved with Life Rolls On (LRO), a subsidiary of the Reeve Foundation.
At its core, LRO is a grassroots organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by spinal cord injury through the use of action sports. Inspired by LRO's message, DeSatnick set a goal for himself that he would attend its golf tournament as soon as he was physically able to.
DeSatnick volunteering at TWSA
Moving on by rolling on
After achieving his goal and attending the event, DeSatnick became heavily involved with Life Rolls On.
"It was just a positive group of people" says DeSatnick, "that did not let spinal cord injuries limit the activities and the daily practices that they wanted to do." "Because I was able to walk again, it made me feel that it was important to give back to those who suffered permanent paralysis. I just feel like my involvement with LRO is a direct way to give back to the spinal cord injury community."
While volunteering for LRO, DeSatnick also started participating in the They Will Surf Again (TWSA) program, an event that focuses on allowing people with spinal cord injuries to get back in the water and enjoy surfing once again.
These events aim to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries, by allowing them to begin or continue surfing. Through this, TWSA hopes to show them that they can achieve anything that they think is outside of their ability to perform.
"When my friends and I came across TWSA it just seemed like a perfect opportunity to help those who had suffered from SCIs get back into the water," says DeSatnick.
Increasing injuries and increasing awareness
Taking what he gained from Life Rolls On, DeSatnick began lobbying for a spinal cord injury awareness program, one based in his hometown of Cape May, NJ.
DeSatnick began his program in response to an increase in the number of head and neck injuries along the beaches of Cape May. According to The Philadelphia Enquirer, these injuries were a result of a project to replenish the Cape May shoreline, conducted by the city of Cape May and the Army Corps of Engineers.
To prevent erosion and flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers began replenishing the shoreline in 1990. However, these replenishments also created steep cliffs and areas of shallow water close to the beaches. These changes increased the risk of injury for swimmers and resulted in an unprecedented number of head and neck injuries in Cape May.
Chad helping a child surf again at TWSA
According to the Cape May County Herald, DeSatnick has been lobbying continuously since 1991, to try and lessen the amount of head and neck injuries in Cape May by creating an awareness program. However, it wasn't until very recently that he was allowed enact his program.
Despite the resistance DeSatnick encountered in Cape May, his program has been a success. "When we created the awareness program two years ago, in 2008, there were 32 emergency c-spine (head, neck, and spine) calls," says DeSatnick. "That number has dropped to 15. I, along with the beach patrol and the fire department, were thrilled with that number dropping in half but, the ultimate goal is to have that number drop to zero."
Because of the success that DeSatnick has experienced in Cape May, he has high hopes for the future of his program.
"I think that the program we have created could be a national program for any shore community," says DeSatnick, "I don't know if it's feasible but a national program that's tied in with the lifeguards would be really beneficial for preventing injuries."
Supporting a lifestyle
"Surfing is a lifestyle. I've been doing it since I was about six or seven years old," says DeSatnick when he imagines how he would feel if he had never been able to surf again.
While DeSatnick can still surf after getting injured, he believes, "The unique part of Life Rolls On is that they create activities for people once they suffer a spinal cord injury. I think that those who are injured believe, once they are injured their life is over, but it's almost the opposite with Life Rolls On."
Learn more about Life Rolls On.
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