Wave paralyzes Utah man during family trip to Hawaii, community rallying to offer support

Posted at 9:25 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 23:25:00-05

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – It was supposed to be a week-long vacation, but a Utah man is now stuck in a Hawaii hospital indefinitely. A freak accident on the first day left him with a broken neck, and no clear timeline on coming home.

Todd Edgington can’t move, and he can barely speak after a wave hit him during a day of beach play. Todd’s son in law, Jeff Gatzemeir, pulled Todd from the water.

“He was still alert and awake, but I asked him, ‘Todd, are you okay?’ He moved his lips but no sound came out,” Gatzemeir said.

Doctors told the family Edgington had broken his neck in two places, possibly paralyzing him for life. It’s left the family stuck in a Honolulu hospital.

But back home, a community is rallying.

“It’s been overwhelming. People’s support and the community have been incredible,” said Cheri Edgington, general manager of the Edginton’s family owned restaurant Shivers.

There, on the marquee, is a message asking for prayers from the community. They’re also handing out fliers with each meal, telling people about the accident and a Go Fund Me page. In just 10 days, that page has raised close to $80,000.

Family members said right now community support is what’s carrying them through.

“We’ve had Facebook messages from across the nation telling stories of similar things happening to other people and to tell us not to give up hope, and that things can get better,” Gatzemeir said. “So we’re hanging on to that and hoping that it will improve.”

Initially the family thought they’d have to stay in Hawaii several weeks, but now they’re hoping they’ll be able to come home this weekend. But that all depends on how Edgington’s recovery goes, and if there are any complications. Gatzemeir said they’re just trying to stay positive.

“There are a lot of people who have reached out with positive stories,” Gatzemeir said. “We know the odds are not necessarily in our favor, but we feel like at this point, there’s still hope.”

Family members are documenting Edgington’s progress on a blog, you can read about it here.