Texas Man Paralyzed in Freak Accident After Being Hit by Wave in Tulum, Mexico

Justin Raiford says after the accident, many things occurred in Mexico that made him uneasy. He said many times, he thought "Okay, something is going on. I do not feel comfortable at all.”

Justin Raiford and his boyfriend, Jared Hill, are dealing with the aftermath of a nightmare scenario they endured while on vacation in Tulum, Mexico

Upon arriving at their destination, the Texas couple of three years decided to go to the beach. They played in the ocean for a while before Justin got tired and decided to go back to the cabana. 

“I actually started to walk away,” Justin tells Inside Edition Digital. “I heard a voice inside of me say, ‘You need to watch him.’ And I turned around and saw a bigger wave come and get him, and it crashed him into the bottom of the ocean. And then I saw him not come up and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what's going on?’”

Jared was instantly paralyzed, Justin says. 

“I had to pull him up, and he was just screaming, ‘I can't move my body, I can't move my body.’ And I had to pick him up and carry him back to the beach while I was screaming for help,” Justin says.

A manager approached the couple, and Justin asked for help calling an ambulance. Then he focused on Jared, who was in extreme pain. Time ticked on, but help did not arrive, even as the staff there on the beach assured Justin they had called first responders, he says. 

After about an hour, he knew something wasn’t right. Justin decided to leave Jared on the beach, grab his phone and contact his hotel concierge. 

"I said, ‘Hey, there's been a terrible accident. Jared's in a lot of trouble. I need an ambulance, and I don't think this place is calling them,’" Justin says. "He was like, ‘Let me see if I can help.’

“He calls the GM and finds out they have not called to help," he continues. "And I was like, 'I knew it, I knew it!' And then he deleted the WhatsApp message where he had told me this. I was like, OK, something is going on. I do not feel comfortable at all.”

Justin says he eventually called the Red Cross, and three hours after the accident, they made it to a hospital. But one they arrived, Justin says nobody would take Jared out of the ambulance.

“Some doctor came out and said, ‘We won't take him out of the ambulance unless you pay us $5,000,’” Justin says.

Saying he felt he had no choice but to pay the money to get the CT scan, Justin handed over the cash, and soon, a scan showed that Jared’s neck was shattered.

"He broke his C1, his C5, 6, 7, and his spinal cord was bent," Justin says.  “And they were just like, ‘This is really bad. We can't help you.’" 

The pair went to another hospital. The neurosurgeon there said Jared needed emergency surgery, but the hospital continued to push back the surgery time for more than a day. 

“I am running around this three-story hospital to the admissions department, to the billing department, to finding nurses to get in more pain medication and getting different stories from every single department of what is going on and what's happening,” Justin says. 

He then found someone who spoke English and could explain what was going on. 

“He literally looked at me and he's like, ‘I'm so sorry. There's nothing I can do,’” Justin says. “I said, 'What do you mean?' He picked up his phone and showed me a message from the hospital director saying, ‘I'm going to keep canceling the surgery. Get money out of them.’

“They literally just wanted cash to grease the wheel to have the surgery, and this is at a hospital where people are supposed to care about people's well-being and life," he continues. "They wanted $20,000.”

Justin says he once again felt he had to pay what he calls a ransom payment. After paying and pleading with the neurosurgeon, the necessary procedure was done. 

Afterward, Justin was concerned when the neurosurgeon said he couldn’t fix everything, and also was concerned with the condition of the hospital. 

“They don't wear gloves. They don't wash their hands. They don't wear PPE,” Justin says of the staff at the hospital. “I had to beg the people in there to not touch him with bare hands in the ICU.

“He has a spinal cord injury and an incision next to his brain. We cannot have bare hands. I was like, ‘What sort of ICU is this? This is not a safe zone at all,'" he says. 

After several days, Justin and Jared were flown to a hospital in Houston, Texas

“They were ready for us,” an emotional Justin says. “There were three nurses in there to do a full body assessment, clean him up, take all his vitals, start him on fluids. There was a neurosurgeon in the room within 10 minutes to check him out. They ran tests on him until 3:30 in the morning.

“It was so chaotic and exhausting, but it's what saved his life," he says. "And it was so wonderful to be back here and feel you were in good hands.”

Because his neck wasn’t properly fixed in Mexico, doctors said they needed to rush Jared into surgery right away for his life-threatening condition. 

But Jared worsened before the surgery could occur. Doctors discovered he had blood clots in his lungs. They also learned that because he was not in sanitary or disinfected areas in the hospitals in Mexico, he had contracted meningitis. 

For days, Jared was hooked up to various IVs, on blood thinners and taking antibiotics. 

When he eventually went into surgery, doctors fixed the work done in Mexico. 

“They discovered that not only were the titanium pieces that they put in Mexico the wrong sizes, they were in the wrong places,” Justin says. “They removed everything. Put in all new hardware, fused his C1 and C2, and put a plate in the back of his head” 

After a nightmarish few weeks, Justin says Jared is finally healing.

“Jared is such an amazing man. I love him so much," Justin says. "He's the most positive, sweet, kind person I've ever met. He stayed so positive and in control and calm. I don't know how he did, not being able to move, and being told, ‘You were going to die,’ three different times.”

Jared has taken time off work and is in physical and occupational therapy daily. He has begun to feel his limbs. 

“He was walking with a physical therapist. No, it wasn't cute. Wasn't cute at all,” Justin jokes. “But he was walking, and the doctors here are very hopeful.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help the couple pay for medical expenses, and Justin is grateful for the support they’ve received from people worldwide. 

“The love to him has been overwhelmingly wonderful. It is so touching,” he says. 

Even though their story is a hard one to tell, Justin says it’s worth it to warn other travelers. 

"Mexico is so close to the U.S.,” he says. “And you think it's close, it's safe, it's fun. But one little incident happens, and your whole life is upside down, and you can't get help. People just need to know about this. I don't even know what it's going to do, but at least if it makes one person think or plan a little better, I think that makes a difference.”

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