“I am with your son. He broke his neck, drowned and is paralyzed from the neck down. I need to perform surgery in order to save his life.” These were the words relayed to photographer Kevin Young’s parents, who were some 3,000 miles away from their son in July 2011.
An architectural and commercial portrait photographer based in San Diego, California, Young decided to take a break from his work and spend some time on his roommate’s boat. On July 4th of that year, wading in shallow water at Mission Bay, Young simply made a diving motion that broke his C4 and C6 vertebrae and shattered his C5. As a result of this, Young became paralyzed from the neck down.
At the time of the accident, Young was facedown in the water, unable to move. After realizing that he was drowning, Young’s friends recovered him from the water and brought him back to the beach, where a nurse preformed CPR and resuscitated him. After being transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Young underwent surgery and has since been recovering from his accident.
“I was in rehab for two months, and have been doing physical therapy as an outpatient for the past two and a half years,” says Young. “I started with the basics—learning how to use my hands again, how to eat. I actually needed to have utensils strapped to my hands in order to eat.”
After a while, Young worked his way up to rolling over in bed. From the bed to the wheelchair, Young finally made it to the rehab floor where he had to re-learn standing on his feet and eventually walking. Miraculously, Young has worked his way back to moving, walking and is even back to his photography—shooting both architecture and weddings.
“The physical challenges are obvious,” says Young. “I just didn’t have the blood pressure or the strength to do the things I used to.” But that wasn’t the worst part for Young. “What was most challenging was the social change. People look at you differently after an accident like that. Everyone is open to help you complete the most menial tasks and it can be frustrating that I cant do that.”
While Young says he’s about at the 90 percent mark in his recovery, a truly remarkable event brought his experience full-circle. In June of 2014 he was strong enough to photograph the wedding of the same nurse who resuscitated him that fateful day on the beach (below).
Young’s story is one that inspires all. Through his struggle, he shows how one can fight back against all odds with the help of friends and family.
To read more about Kevin Young’s story as well as his photography, visit his website.