A 54-year-old dad is teaching himself how to walk again after a wave left his paralyzed in July.
Stephen Franke was with his wife and their four children on a summer beach vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, when he and his 18-year-old daughter, Abby, decided to body surf one last wave.
“The waves were bigger than average,” he told Inside Edition. “They were coming real quick.”
Disaster struck as a rogue wave pounded him into just two feet of water. He couldn’t move his arms or legs and his throat and lungs filled with salt water.
“As soon as the wave started, it crashed down on my head and the water was super shallow. I could see Abby, she was about 15 feet away,” he said. “I was able to muster just a faint 'help!'”
His daughter told Inside Edition: "I just ran over there and picked him up and carried him out of the water. His eyes were rolled back and he was completely unconscious. I thought my dad was gonna die."
Luckily for Stephen, two of his cousins who are nurses were on the vacation too. They kept him alive with CPR until an ambulance arrived.
His wife, Rene, said: “I remember just getting down on the ground and yelling at him, 'don't die on me!'"
Now five days a week, hours at a time, he is strapped into a harness and hoisted onto a treadmill, where he's teaching himself how to walk again.
It's estimated that hundreds of people are paralyzed every year in America while body surfing or riding boogie boards, usually in very shallow water.
After being brought back from near death, he spent two months in the Shepherd Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta. His spinal cord was not completely severed, which means he could regain full use of his hands and arms and possibly even walk again.
He’s home for the holidays, and he's convinced that with hard work and the deep faith of his family, anything is possible.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical expenses. For more information or if you would like to donate, click here.