My Story

Image © 2013 Damian Battinelli

Video © 2014 SLR Lounge

In July of 2011 my parents received an alarming phone call from 3,000 miles away. The message was brief and to the point, “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.” On the day that celebrates our country’s fight for freedom, I found myself fighting for my life.

While wading waist deep in the water,  a simple forward diving motion – not down – resulted in the breaking of my C4 and C6 vertebrae and the shattering of my C5. Puzzled by my lack of swimming, I quickly realized that I had lost function and feeling in every part of my body below my neck. As super human as I always thought I was, I wasn’t able to hold my breath long enough to avoid drowning. It’s unknown what I hit, as there was nothing visible in the water, no sandbar present and no bruising, swelling, lacerations or contusions on my body. I prefer to assume it was a shark; it’s simply more entertaining.

I absolutely would not be here today if it weren’t for the nurse on the beach that performed CPR to bring my heart back around, my friends who assisted in recovering me from the water, the lifeguards that transported me to the main land, the medics that transported me to Scripps Memorial Hospital, the incredible neurosurgeon, Dr. Ghosh, and the amazing care at the hospital. I am so thankful to the caregivers and therapists at Sharp Inpatient Rehab Services and Physiotherapy Associates, Coach PJ of Body Evolution who donated countless hours of his time, fellow photographers and the photo community, the immeasurable number of people that provided support without even knowing me, and most importantly my friends and family for all of the sacrifices they made. I simply could not have asked for a better support team! Thank you!

I have overcome quadriplegia and continue to fight to get back as much as I possibly can. My recovery has been a miraculous one. I am very fortunate to be able to live a life filled with photography. Photography has played many important roles in my ongoing recovery. It’s a pleasure to share my images with you. If you consider enjoying an image on a permanent basis by purchasing a print, please take additional joy in knowing that the sale aids my pursuit of my passion.