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Stanwood man remains upbeat, hopeful in Hawaii after paralyzing body surfing accident

Todd Duitsman is shown with his wife and children in a Honolulu hospital following the body surfing injury that left him paralyzed. He remains upbeat and optimistic and vows to walk again. (Photo courtesy Barry Gould)

When you talk to Todd Duitsman, you can’t help but be touched by his optimism and spirit.

Somehow, the Stanwood dad remains surprisingly upbeat despite suffering a body surfing accident in Hawaii two weeks ago that left him paralyzed.

The memory is still crystal clear. Todd was with his family and friends frolicking in the surf off Maui’s Big Beach when suddenly a huge wave came upon him, driving his head into the sand.

“I just remember hitting the sand so hard, and then you’re just floating there,” Todd told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson in a conversation from his hospital bed Friday.

“And I remember having just a few thoughts of, man, I feel like one of those sea anemones or jelly fish with my hands just floating below me and I can’t move a thing.”

Todd also wondered if he was going to die, and if anyone would notice him floating in the water before it was too late. Luckily, his best friend was nearby and turned him over in the water.

Lifeguards quickly pulled him from the water and got him to an ambulance. He was ultimately transferred to a hospital in Honolulu several days later.

“It was a flash. You go from pure joy of hanging out with your friends, and 15-20 minutes later you start down a journey in your life that obviously only God knows what’s prepared for you. It’s certainly a life changer, that’s for sure,” Todd says.

He could be forgiven for feeling sorry for himself or giving up. But Todd won’t have any of that.

“It comes from my relationship with Jesus Christ and I know that whatever gets served me, he’s my rock,” he says. “I swim in blessings.”

Todd says he has reason for optimism. Doctors have told him he suffered contusions to his spine rather than fractures. He remains hopeful the swelling will eventually subside and with a lot of hard work he’ll be able to walk again.

“I certainly more than anything else ask for everybody out there to hit their knees and pray for me to walk,” he says. “Because that’s such a huge part of my life, is being involved with my kids and hanging out with my wife and children and petting my cat and holding my lizard and all that stuff, you know what I mean?”

Todd’s wife and brother have been by his bedside 24/7 since the accident. They got some good news this week when he was able to move his leg a bit during physical therapy, after moving his toes several days ago.

But in the near term, he’s just looking forward to coming home. After initially balking at paying much of the $50,000 cost of a special medical flight needed to bring him back to Seattle, Premera has agreed to bring him home with the help of American Medical Response.

Brant Butte with AMR told the Ron and Don Show the company will fly Todd home from Hawaii Saturday.

Efforts are underway to raise money to cover the costs, as well as his long-term medical care. Family, friends and members of his church and community have banded together to help raise money via a special Facebook page.

Through it all, he remains hopeful and upbeat, vowing to “work his tail off” to be the “best Todd he can be” to walk again, and ultimately touch as many people as he can. And he hopes to inspire others to do the same.

“We have such limited time and we don’t know when it winds down. And I would just ask that people just go out and hug all the people they need to hug on, and say kind words, and just, dang it, just go out and be a good positive influence on people.”

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