Surfer Owes Life to CareFlight's Rapid Response

It was his last wave of the day and Jon Wright knew he was headed straight for danger when the three metre barrel he was riding turned bad.

“It was big seas that day, but that’s what we wait for as keen body boarders. I was on my belly riding along when the barrel I was in started closing in on another one. I knew straight away I wasn’t going to get out of it,” Jon said.

On Saturday 25 August, the 21 year old was dumped straight onto a sandbank 250 metres out to sea, fracturing one of his lower vertebrae completely.

“It felt like I fell from a three storey building straight onto concrete. This awful sensation spread up my body, it felt like my brain was going to explode. I couldn’t move my legs and could only just lift my arm. I was afraid I was going to drown out there,” Jon said.

Eventually another surfer spotted Jon and pulled him to shore using his leg rope.

“I didn’t get the guy’s name, but I said to him when we hit the shore after what seemed like a marathon paddle back in, “Thanks mate, I owe you my life”, and I meant it.”

By now, Jon was in incredible pain and starting to fear the worst, after being told by one of the guys helping him up the beach, that he had a lump the size of a fist on his back.  When CareFlight Doctor Matt Gunning and Paramedic Brad Solomon arrived by road ambulance, they took one look at Jon’s back and requested he be airlifted urgently.
“There was a very large lump noticeable through his wetsuit. When we cut the wetsuit off I could see the swelling and strongly suspected he had broken his back,” said Dr Gunning.

“The positive was that he still had feeling in his legs, meaning his spinal cord was obviously not damaged, but moving him correctly was crucial. The cord could have been damaged at any time by the broken bone.”

The RACQ CareFlight Helicopter managed to land on Kirra Beach and Jon was put on a specifically designed vacuum mattress used to move patients with spinal injuries.

“When the CareFlight medical team arrived on the scene, everything changed. They completely took control and were very professional. The specialist treatment I received was so reassuring. When they arrived I actually felt like I was going to be O.K.” Jon said.

Jon spent ten days in the PA Hospital and is now the proud owner of two metal rods and three pins, which doctors believe could be removed in a year if the bones heal correctly.