BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Many people have already jumped in swimming pools and pulled out their boats following recent warmer temperatures, and some families will take vacations when students are out of school for spring break.
Mark Raymond Jr. encourages everyone to be careful if they plan to go boating. His life changed in a split second in 2016, while boating with his friends on Lake Pontchartrain.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the tide. What I thought was deeper water was not. Doved off the boat and hit my head on the sandy bottom, and I shattered the fifth vertebra in my neck, resulting in paralysis. I injured my spinal cord, and I woke up three weeks later with doctors telling me that I might be paralyzed for the rest of my life,” said Raymond. “The biggest thing for me was denial and accepting my reality. It’s a process when you get news like that. It takes a minute for the brain to process or understand and accept it.”
Doctors warn diving into shallow water can result in devastating and irreversible injuries to the spinal cord. They said most of the patients are males and the injuries are preventable. As many as one out of every 10 injuries to the cervical spinal cord is caused by a diving accident, according to physicians.
Safety experts said swimmers should enter the water feet first to determine depth before jumping off a boat or any other platform. Diving should be done in water at least 10 to 12 feet deep and never dive in an above-ground pool.
Raymond does not recommend people live in fear of diving but instead make smarter decisions. “The message that I try to get across now to people, in general, is be mindful of the risk you take,” he said.
Because of his injury, Raymond decided to help others with disabilities. He created the Split Second Foundation, giving people with disabilities a comfortable space to workout, engage with mental health professionals and find resources to enhance their quality of life.
“I didn’t understand how big the disabled community was prior to my accident. So our mission at the Split Second Foundation is to break barriers for people with disabilities,” Raymond stated.
The foundation is based in New Orleans and Raymond said plans are underway to expand with fitness centers in Baton Rouge and other parts of Louisiana.