MINNEAPOLIS – A Lakeville man underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his bruised spinal cord at Hennepin County Medical Center after he was injured during an accident at the Water Park of America in Bloomington.
Tommy Lee, 39, had two titanium screws and a plate installed in his neck Wednesday to stabilize crushed Vertebrae and relieve pressure from his spinal cord, a Hennepin County Medical Center spokeswoman said.
If the bone had moved any closer to the cord, Lee could have been paralyzed, said his brother-in-law, Louis Lau.
Lee was injured Monday shortly after arriving at the park with his two young sons and other family members for an early birthday celebration.
Lee said he grabbed a boogie board, got on and slid onto the FlowRider, a ramp with water shooting upward. He said the powerful jets immediately pushed him back to the top of the ride, where he landed forcefully and felt his body go numb. He couldn’t feel or move his limbs.
“I was scared,” his wife, Laura Lee, told the Star Tribune. “I started touching him on the leg and he said he had no feeling.”
Lee and his family members said the water park should have better-trained personnel who provide appropriate instructions. Lee said he was given no instructions and said the water speed on the ride was too high.
Angela Greer, spokeswoman for Wirth Companies, which owns the water park, said a sign posted at the ride warns that it is turbulent and also provides instructions. She said lifeguards are trained to give appropriate instructions and intervene if a rider requests help.
“We feel that the guidelines that were put in place were more than acceptable,” she said.
Tom Lochtefeld, owner of the ride’s manufacturer, Wave Loch Inc., said millions of riders have been on FlowRider with no major incidents, only cuts, scrapes and bruises.
“Like any participatory sporting activity – and FlowRider is an aggressive whitewater attraction – there is always potential risk of injury,” he said. “It is a very safe ride.”
Doctors have said Lee’s left arm will always be weaker than it was before the accident and have warned him to refrain from rough physical activity, such as sports, or heavy lifting, his family said.
Lee said he hasn’t walked yet, but has regained some movement of his limbs.
The family said they plan to take legal action.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com