DON GONYEA, host:
Time now for StoryCorps, a project traveling the country recording family stories. Today, one from Pensacola, Florida. Tom Davis grew up there, enjoying everything the seaside town has to offer. But in the summer of 2000, when he was 21, a surfing accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. Tom recently sat down with his parents, Connie and Robert, to talk about what's kept him going since the injury.
Mr. TOM DAVIS: One day the surf was up, down at the beach, so I caught a wave and was gliding down the face, and went up to do a trick. I timed it wrong and went headfirst into about a foot and a half of water. I had a loud ringing in my ears, and I couldn't move and I couldn't breathe. And I realized that my neck was broken. I thought: This can't be it; I can't just die. My body just went limp. I was dead, they think, for about 15 minutes before I was resuscitated.
Ms. CONNIE DAVIS: We prayed and prayed for a miracle, and the miracle of him walking and moving again never happened, but we do realize he should have been brain damaged, and he's not - any more than he was before.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. DAVIS: That's debatable, right? You know, I went from being so active and a Type A personality, and I was always go, go, go. And then all of a sudden, it's just, you know, my life came to a screeching halt. Now, I'm completely reliant on others.
Every night, you guys stretch my muscles and move my joints around, and then in order to have a bowel movement, stick a suppository in my rectum. And that was tough at first, but now, Mom, as you always say ...
Ms. DAVIS: Routine maintenance.
Mr. DAVIS: Yup, routine maintenance. I don't think we would've laughed this hard if it weren't for my injury. I can credit my lack of depression to you guys. But the only regret I think that I have in life is not getting closer to you before my injury, because I was always out with my friends.
And Dad, I don't think you realize how highly I think of you. I mean, I look at you, and you make me want to be a better man.
Mr. ROBERT DAVIS: Well, I'd like to think that I'm not doing anything different than any other father would do.
Mr. T. DAVIS: Mom, you don't make me want to be a better woman, but I love you, and I don't know what I'd do without you. I remember thinking when I first got hurt that I didn't, I didn't want to live like this. But I think with parents like you and the support that I have, I still have a life.
(Soundbite of music)
GONYEA: Tom Davis with his parents, Connie and Robert Davis, at StoryCorps in Pensacola, Florida.
Their conversation will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The project's podcast is at NPR.org.
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