West Seattle native fights back from bizarre surfing injury

Published: April 2, 2008  |  Source: westseattleblog.com
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addieThat’s 20-year-old Adrianna “Addie” Killam, who grew up in West Seattle — graduating from Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2002, Holy Names Academy in 2006, then heading to Arizona to go to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical and Engineering University. Today, she traveled home to Seattle on a plane from Maui – but it was no tourism flight – it was a “medical lift” so that Addie could be admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center for therapy and rehab after a spring-break surfing jaunt left her with a spinal-cord injury. Family friend Maureen Emerson e-mailed WSB to help get the word out about Addie’s injury — which didn’t happen the way you might think after hearing the phrase “surfing injury” — and her fight to recover, which she’s chronicling online:

Maureen says lots of people know Addie: “She was an avid Girl Scout, leading her local troop in cookie sales for several years, she is an accomplished figure skater, has recently worked at the Denis Uniform Store, and has lived in West Seattle with her parents, Bob and Ginger Killam and brother, Andy, all her life.”

Now, as Maureen tells it, Addie is fighting to get back to a normal life, after the accident in Hawaii on March 19: “She and her 3 college roommates signed up for a surfing lesson and she was out on the board for the first time. She came out of the water relatively soon, having experienced no trouble whatsoever. She felt a little weird on her way up the beach, but didn’t want to interrupt her friends’ lesson, so she just sat there trying to figure out if she was coming down with something or what. Hours later, she had her friend’s take her to a clinic. She started to feel numb in her toes. When she called her mom for insurance info and told her about the numbness, her mom told her to get straight to a hospital. Later that afternoon, the hospital called Seattle to tell mom that Addie had a non-traumatic surfing injury known as ‘Surfer’s Myelopathy’ that affects the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis.”

Maureen says research revealed this is fairly common in first-time surfers because of the blood supply to the spinal cord getting cut as the surfer twists the neck to look back for waves while hyperextending the back; here’s a Hawaii newspaper article about it.

Good news is, according to Maureen, full recovery is very possible, but it will take a lot of work: “Addie is heading to the UW Physical Therapy rehab unit … so we all remain very hopeful. It’s just a little daunting to think how this will affect her and her family over the next coming months.”

One thing they’re using to keep family, friends and others updated is a website that includes journal entries, a guestbook, and other updates (when a fundraiser is announced, for example, that info will be on the site). You can find it here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/addiekillam