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Teen combatting rare spinal injury after surfing lesson takes unexpected turn

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:47 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 16-year-old Brandon Louie of Los Altos, Calif. is athletic. He loves sports and was enjoying summer in Hawaii with his family.

He was in the middle of a surfing lesson in Waikiki earlier this month when something happened to his spine.

“He popped up on the surf board and he felt a pop in his lower back. He knew immediately that something was wrong,” said Brandon’s mother, Eunice Louie.

Brandon’s mother says even though he felt pain in his lower back, he still rode the wave in. Once on shore, he dragged his board on to the sand. He started losing feeling in his legs.

“There was no dramatic wipe out. There was no crash on to rocks or coral. No reckless behavior,” said Louie.

Doctors diagnosed him with surfer’s myelopathy, a very rare form of paralysis triggered by a nontraumatic spinal injury.

“I think it’s best described as a stroke of the spine,” said Louie.

Brandon is now paralyzed from the waist down.

“He needs to relearn how to live his day to day life,” she said.

On Tuesday, he was medically evacuated from the Queen’s Medical Center to Atlanta, Georgia for rehabilitation at the Shepard Center which specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries.

Despite the long road ahead, Brandon’s mother says he’s trying to stay positive. He’s working on his Eagle Scout project and is inspired by the Olympics.

“On the second day in the hospital, he said, ‘Mom when can I start training for a paralympic basketball team?’” said Louie.

Despite life’s heartbreaking turn, his mother says the family felt Hawaii’s aloha spirit and they want to thank the staff at Queen’s hospital, Lt. Governor Josh Green, who helped navigate the medical evacuation process and the many strangers who’ve become a part of their family.

“People have mentioned it as ohana and we really appreciate the help and support that people have provided us here. It’s a special place,” said Louie.

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