Alex Spartz, a 17-year-old Glendale high school student, is still in Maui after a July 13 beach accident left him paralyzed.
The honor student, swim team captain at Mountain Ridge High School, and soccer player had been doing somersaults on Kaanpali Beach that day while on a family vacation. He mistimed a wave and crashed headfirst into the sand, breaking his neck. Now he's in ICU on the Hawaiian island, unable to move his fingers or his legs.
Spartz is one of three people who broke their necks on Maui beaches last week and the second one from Arizona.
Wendi Van Briesen, a Southwest flight attendant from Gilbert, died on July 19 after being hit by a wave while bodysurfing on Makena Beach. Southern Maui was under a high surf advisory for several days last week. Earlier this month, Todd Duitsman of Washington was paralyzed in a wave mishap similar to Van Briesen's.
Spartz's mother, Dorothy, came home to the Valley this week with the teen's two younger sisters. She tells New Times that medical professionals have given her family hope that a complete recovery is possible. He had a successful surgery two days after the accident to remove fractured vertebrae that lodged in his spinal cord.
"But his spinal cord is bruised and still healing," Dorothy says.
The family's been told that sometimes a bruised spinal cord never heals enough to restore mobility in a patient. On the other hand, some professionals are optimistic, saying "he's young and that the way he's progressing, he's going to be fine," Dorothy Spartz says.
His blood pressure has been stabilizing in recent days, and he was recently put on a tilt-table to shift his weight.
Brian and Dorothy Spartz are both teachers for the Phoenix Union High School District. After being told it would cost $70,000 for an air-ambulance flight from Maui to Phoenix, and that insurance wouldn't cover the fee because the flight was not medically crucial, Brian Spartz decided to use medical leave to stay in Maui until his son could come home on a less-expensive flight. The family's since been told they could take a private jet home with medical staff for $42,000, and that insurance would pay for part of the cost.
A friend started a Go Fund Me site for Alex Spartz that had raised nearly $7,200 as of today.
With the new school year about to start, Alex vows to keep up with his studies.
"His attitude is so amazing," Dorothy Spartz says of her son.
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