After wave paralyzed him, visitor warns others about ocean's power

( Image: Jana Muhlestein )
( Image: Jana Muhlestein )

WAIMEA BAY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Aric Muhlestein, his wife and their four children were having a great time vacationing in Hawaii until last Thursday, when they stopped at Waimea Bay.

"On the way up to the North Shore we saw Waimea Bay and said, 'That looks pretty good for body surfing,'" Aric told Hawaii News Now on Thursday.

It was about 2:30 p.m. when they stopped; the rest of the Muhlestein family played on the shoreline while Aric went for a swim.

"We were playing in the waves and I jumped into a wave, and the next thing I knew, I could not move. It was scary," he said.

The 47-year-old Utah resident remembers the force of the wave slamming him into the sand – and his body going limp. His family and lifeguards pulled him out of the water.

"I didn't realize that I didn't have any feeling in my legs until a gentleman grabbed my legs and put them up above my head, and I couldn't feel that he had done that," he said.

Paramedics treated him and transported him to the Queen's Medical Center. He had emergency surgery on his dislocated spine, but doctors later reported that he had suffered severe spinal damage.

Some feeling has returned to his arms, but he's paralyzed from the chest down.

"It's going to be a long road, for me but I am up for it. My goal is to walk," he said Thursday. "I'll get there someday. I don't know when that someday will be, but I will get there."

When Aric returns to the mainland, it will be to a rehabilitation center, either at home in Utah or in Colorado.

"We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and we've got faith the good things are going to happen for me," he said.

Aric appreciates the care from doctors and nurses at Queen's and the help from people who rushed to his aid at the beach. He's using his tragedy to warn other tourists to be cautious in Hawaii waters, especially if they're not used to the ocean.

"if I can help one or two people to not be in the circumstance that I am in that's what I want to do. This does change your life," he said.

Aric manages call centers for a company in both Utah and Oregon. He enjoys running half-marathons and coaching his sons in baseball, but for now, that active lifestyle is on hold.

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