June 6, 2003
Ole Miss senior working his way back after diving accident leaves him paralyzed
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Cameron Stubbs’ new life started in “the pink chair.”
Being promoted to the chair, which allowed him to sit up, was a major goal after breaking his neck in a diving accident in a hotel pool during Spring Break in Nassau, Bahamas.
Since then the Ole Miss senior has made and surpassed many goals, with many more on the horizon. And while he is focused on his own recovery and improvement, he wants to remind everyone swimming this summer to take precautions when diving.
“It can happen to anyone and it changes your life,” Stubbs said.
Doctors and therapists at Methodist Rehabilitation Center, where Stubbs is a patient, know that warm weather brings the threat of diving injuries. Diving accidents account for about 10 percent of all spinal cord injuries each year and about 60 percent of recreational spinal cord injuries. The damage occurs at a high level on the spinal cord, usually the neck, and that carries with it a higher level of paralysis and more complications.
“Generally it does result in a more severe level of injury,” said Ellen Lee, director of the spinal cord injury program at Methodist Rehab. “Most of the time this results in quadriplegia and the higher the injury, of course, the more complicated it becomes.”
The 22-year old Pickens native had just arrived in the Bahamas when the accident occurred on March 10. He was flown to Miami and spent 25 days in a hospital there, including time in intensive care for a collapsed lung and pneumonia. He was also confined to a rotary bed, where he was completely immobile for two weeks. After surgery he was able to be moved from the bed to a total lift chair, or “the pink chair” as it was nicknamed, allowing him to sit up. He spent six days on the acute care floor of the Miami hospital before doctors determined he could be transported by air ambulance back to Mississippi, where family and friends anxiously awaited his arrival.
“Everyone has been so supportive,” Connie Morrow, his mother, said. “We had at least 45 people come through here on one day. The cards, the calls, the prayers. It has all been wonderful.”
After he was admitted to Methodist Rehab, he began reaching more of his goals. He spent two hours each day in therapy, working on his mobility and building his strength. “I’m learning something new everyday. I’ve come a long way. I want to go as far as I can and become as independent as I can,” Stubbs said.
Since leaving the hospital in mid-May Stubbs has been continuing therapy at the hospital’s outpatient clinic on Layfair Drive in Flowood. He continues to make progress and has a positive outlook.
He plans to return to the University of Mississippi, where he is a marketing major, but right now his focus is on his rehabilitation and becoming as independent as possible. “I know people are praying for me, and I know that God is looking out for me. All the support is a real confidence builder,” Stubbs said.
Experts at Methodist Rehab know that the warm weather will bring an increase in diving accidents.
“Each year, about 1,000 diving-related injuries occur”, said Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at the Jackson hospital. “This accounts for 10 percent of all spinal cord injuries and 60 percent of all recreational injuries.”
Dr. Vohra’s offers the following tips for keeping safe around water:
- Check the water for a minimum depth of ten feet before diving or jumping.
- Never swim or dive alone. Whether you are swimming or diving in a backyard pool or in a lake, always have someone else with you to help in case of an emergency.
- Know your limits. If you are not a skilled swimmer, don’t try to keep up with friends. Always wear a life jacket and stay close to shore.
- Learn CPR. This particularly applies to pool and boat owners.
- Never drink alcohol while boating or swimming.
- Take swimming lessons. Enroll yourself and your children age four and older in swimming lessons. It can save their life.
- Never leave a child unattended in or around water. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water in a matter of seconds. If you own a pool or spa, consider installing a fence and always make sure children who cannot swim wear life jackets.
- Never eat or chew gum while swimming or diving. Choking is the leading cause of unintentional death in young children and can be dangerous in water.
Annie Hardy, a rehab technician at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson helps patient Cameron Stubbs as he works to regain strength.