UPDATE: Washington state man paralyzed in body surfing accident getting flight home

Washington state man paralyzed in body surfing accident stranded in Hawaii
Published: Jul. 17, 2014 at 12:09 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 17, 2014 at 7:12 PM HST
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Tammi Duitsman
Tammi Duitsman

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - UPDATE: The Washington State man who was paralyzed in a body surfing accident on Maui two weeks ago could be going home as soon as Saturday, his family said.

Todd Duitsman has been paralyzed from the neck down since a body surfing accident at Maui's Big Beach two weeks ago and is being treated at the Queen's Medical Center. He had been stranded while friends and family raised funds for a medical flight to bring him home to Washington state.

Duitsman's family said his medical insurer reversed its earlier denial of the medical flight that would be necessary to transport him back to the mainland. The announcement was made Thursday afternoon on the Facebook page that updates Duitsman's condition and was confirmed by Hawaii News Now.

The accident happened just a few hours after Duitsman arrived on the Valley Isle with his family and friends to celebrate his daughter's high school graduation.

"About 40 minutes into body surfing, I pound my head into the sand, and then I'm floating in the water basically, almost like a jellyfish," he said.

Duitsman said there were only three things going through his head after his happened.

"Is this how I'm checking out? And number two was, wow, this is kind of an interesting feeling, I can't feel anything. And number three was, I've got about a minute and-a-half. If someone doesn't find me and flip me over, I'm done."

Fortunately, Duitsman's best friend noticed and got his face back above water. He was airlifted to the Queen's Medical Center, where his wife and his brother are by his side 24/7.

"You wake up and you think it's going to be a dream," said Duitsman's wife, Tammi. "You wake up and you think he's going to walk or move his hands or move his feet."

So far, Duitsman has been able to move his toes a little. But his main challenge right now is trying to get back home to Stanwood WA, north of Seattle.

"He'll be cleared to fly on a medical flight," said Tammi Duitsman. "Right now that's the only way that he would be able to fly is on a medical flight."

The Duitsmans were told that the cost of such a flight from Honolulu to Seattle is $50,000.

Friends have been showing their support through a Facebook page, where they're also trying to raise the funds for future medical expenses.

Through it all, Duitsman is remaining positive.

"I'm gonna work my tail off and work to get rehabilitated and walk again. And yeah, I'll be back. I will be. I love Hawaii."

Visit the Facebook page for Todd Duitsman by clicking HERE.

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