A once-avid surfer learns to ride waves again after losing a lung and leg, then getting COVID

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 4:19 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 4:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Carter Parry got hooked on surfing when he came to Oahu from Ohio to attend Hawaii Pacific University.

“Took a nice 11-foot Tanaka board, paddled out in Waiks with my dad the first week of moving in and ended up falling in love,” said Parry.

He was 22 years old back then, surfing every day, and was in the best shape of his life, he says, when he got sick.

“I started getting cold-like symptoms probably on the first day of January 2020,” said Parry. “I couldn’t breathe and the next thing I know, I wake up two weeks later at Queen’s with tons of tubes and pipes shoved into my body.”

He flat-lined twice, went into a medically induced coma and was placed on a life-saving machine at Queen’s Medical Center ICU called ECMO. Parry had gotten the flu. It caused a severe infection that spread to his lung.

“I guess about 50 people kind of in my age group per state per year usually get the flu like this or something and you don’t usually hear about it because they almost always die. I was pegged for a one-percent chance to live,” said Parry.

Next, Parry was medavaced to the Cleveland Clinic to have one of his lungs removed. Doctors later amputated his lower right leg after it developed gangrene from the side effects of medication.

After months of rehab, Parry was finally discharged from the hospital only to become infected with COVID.

Luckily, it was a mild case.

“Those things are scary and hard to overcome, but I was really just focused on how I am going to get back into the water,” Parry said.

A year and a half later, with one leg and one lung, doing simple things like vacuuming is a struggle. Just to walk to his car from his apartment, Parry says, takes him about 45 minutes.

Parry is 24 years old now and is determined to get stronger. He hopes to one day surf competitively on the Hawaii Adaptive Surf Team and documents his progress on his vlog called “Trying Not to Drown.”

“Two weeks ago, I caught my first wave. I went out with Access Surf. It was so awesome just to be cruising on a wave again,” said Parry. “It can be pretty discouraging to know how far I have to go to be a competitive surfer with my condition, but at least the challenges are laid out for me, and I think it’s possible.”

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