A Story of Surfer's Myelopathy

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to interview one of my former patients I had the pleasure of treating while working as a contract PT at Kuakini Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii last spring, 2018.

Sandra is a 22 year old from Zurich, Switzerland. In January, 2018, during her solo travels around the US, she stopped in Hawaii prior to her return home. While on the island, she decided to take a surfing lesson for the first time, as many people do. During the lesson, an unfortunate and extremely rare event had her paralyzed from the waist down. Never having been hospitalized before, she opens up and tells us about the entire experience in a real, raw, and vulnerable way.

She talks about how she overcame depression, shifted her mindset, and is now in a place where anything is possible. Her never give up attitude and unrelenting bravery is something for everyone to truly admire.


Surfer's Myelopathy is extremely rare diagnosis, with only 64 cases recorded to date as of October, 2015.(1) To learn more, check out the Surfer's Myelopathy Foundation at http://www.smawareness.org



Hi Sandra, how have you been? 


Great actually. I mean, the first few months after coming back to Switzerland were a bit rough, but I’m good now.


I'm glad to hear that. So, we’ll get started by having you tell everyone a little bit about yourself.


My name is Sandra. I’m 22 years old, from Switzerland. At the moment, I am in an Integration Program for people with disabilities who had accidents of sickness just to prepare for work or student life, to build up working hours and everything, just to get used to this. The program ends on Wednesday and in September, I’ll go to Uni to study International Management. 

So, as you know, in 2018 I had my accident. A hyperextensional  trauma to the spinal cord, which led to me being paralyzed from the waist down. I’m still using a wheelchair full-time. I’m doing everything on my own without help from other people, so that’s great. There is progress. I got some motion back, and some stability. I can stand a little bit, mostly due to my spasticity, which is very strong. But still, better than nothing. 

"A hyperextensional trauma to the spinal cord, led to me being paralyzed from the waist down."


Yeah, so tell u