A Citrus Heights man is in a Honolulu hospital following a body surfing accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down late last month. Friends and family said Mike Droter, 30, had planned the surprise vacation to Hawaii as an early birthday present for his girlfriend.
Droter and his girlfriend, Jordan Lovas, were on Sandy Beach on the island of Oahu on Aug. 28 during the last day of their trip, Lovas said. The beach is known as a popular body surfing spot with powerful, and sometimes dangerous, waves.
As Lovas and two friends that the couple had met up with were getting ready to leave the beach, Droter decided he wanted to go back into the water one last time, according to Lovas. Within five minutes of entering ocean, a powerful wave knocked Droter over as he was body surfing, and snapped his neck, Lovas said. She and her friends were waiting for him on the beach.
“Honestly, I just thought that he was going to die and I was just praying that he wouldn’t,” Lovas said. “He just went in and the waves literally picked him up and smashed him down.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Droter was pulled out of the water by lifeguards, and an ambulance arrived shortly after, Lovas said. The two were rushed to The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu and were immediately sent to a room where upward of 20 medical staff members waited to evaluate Droter’s injuries, she added.
It was only after the accident that Lovas learned locals had dubbed the beach “Broke Neck Beach” due to the prevalence of neck injuries caused by the powerful waves.
“When we got to the hospital, everyone was just saying ‘Oh yeah, that happens there a lot,’ ” Lovas said.
Doctors determined Droter had injured his spinal cord and two crucial vertebrae in his neck when he was knocked over by the wave, which would leave him unable to move his body from the neck down. His injuries also affected his ability to breathe and required that he use a breathing machine, possibly for the rest of his life, according to Kim Kaspari, Droter’s mother, who rushed from Sacramento to Honolulu after hearing about her son’s accident.
She said despite the critical injuries, Droter remained positive. Though he could not move his limbs, he had not lost consciousness and was able to move his head and whisper, she said.
“We’ve been really seeing where’s he’s at and looking to the future,” Kaspari said. Lovas and Kaspari said they were working to find a rehabilitation facility to treat Droter as soon as he is well enough to travel.
A GoFundMe page to help with Droter’s medical costs had garnered almost $8,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re just so grateful that we have the friends and family that we have, who have been helping us for so far away,” Lovas said.