Big Island man paralyzed while fleeing from lava utters first words

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a fountain of lava threatened his home, Dave Jarman scrambled to pack belongings before fleeing with his wife.

During the panic and his haste, he made a tiny mistake that would change his life:

"I lost my balance and fell against the railing. It gave way and I went off the deck," Jarman said.

That fall from the second floor would leave him paralyzed from the chest down, with breathing and a feeding tube.

"He was just nothing. His eyes were open and he wasn't responding at all and I still see that. I still see that every day," said Jarman's wife, Denise.

Dave Jarman was airlifted to The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, where doctors determined he had a broken neck, several broken vertebrae and a host of other injuries.

His spinal cord wasn't severed. but doctors don't know if he'll be permanently paralyzed.

"We are thankful. I'm thankful for every minute that he's breathing right now," Denise Jarman said.

For two weeks since the accident, her husband had no voice — until Monday when he spoke his first words. "Hello," he said. And, "I love my wife."

"When he said 'hello' I was standing here with my hands in the air like, 'Oh my gosh. I hear your voice," Denise Jarman said.

The next step for her husband is to eat solid food. The couple hope he'll be discharged on Friday, before heading to Utah for extensive rehab.

The Jarmans home survived in lower Puna, but is surrounded by lava.

That's not deterring the Jarmans.

"I'm going to go home," Dave Jarman said. "I'm going to get up and all of us and Leilani Estates just have to keep the faith."

Jarman's ohana set up a GoFundMe account.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.