SEATTLE - What was supposed to be a vacation in paradise has turned into a nightmare for a man from Seattle. Evan Griffis was swimming in the ocean in Mexico when he was hit by a large wave, which caused him to hit his head and neck, paralyzing him.
"Evan is incredible, I’m proud to be his little brother," said Adam Griffis, Evan’s Brother.
Adam says Evan is fighting for his life from a hospital bed in Mexico. Evan works for a travel company, so it's in his nature to pick up and go. He'd traveled to Puerto Vallarta on a personal trip for Pride Week and was swimming in the ocean near the beach, pictured below, when everything changed.
"I would say it must have been a rogue wave and must have hit him at chest height and with enough force to knock him straight to the ground," said Adam.
Evan tumbled head-first into the sea floor, shattering two vertebrates in his neck.
"His body ended up tumbling onto the floor of the ocean, and the whole scene, everyone rushed to his aid," said Adam.
In the ICU, Evan had an 11-hour surgery to remove pieces of broken bone and to stabilize his spinal cord.
"Evan had enough shards in his neck, just from the shattered vertebrae. They had to operate on both the front of his neck and then flip him around and finish the back side of the surgery with the back of his neck," said Adam.
Adam says through the pain, Evan has remained positive. When able to speak, he has tried to lighten the mood by joking with the hospital staff.
"He's a popular guy, and he’s well-loved, and he’s pretty witty. He was cracking jokes and had some self-deprecating humor all the way into the ICU his first night," said Adam. "When the doctors spoke to him about his paralysis, he said in typical Evan style, ‘Well, I guess my life changed a little’, and is ready to take the next step."
Despite a successful surgery, the family was told he might not be able to walk again and swelling around his spinal cord could still threaten his life if it impacts his respiratory system. At one point, he was given a 70% chance of survival.
"We’ve seen an outpouring of love for Evan that has just been tremendous," said Adam.
A friend started a GoFundMe online fundraiser to help Evan with medical expenses and to secure a medical plane ride so that Evan can get back to the States for rehabilitation and care.
"We know that it’s going to be a long journey ahead, but we just love all the messages and well wishes and contributions we’ve received," said Adam. "All this will go to Evan's recovery, Evan's rehabilitation, and getting him back on track with life. We are grateful to every person who has reached out and touched our hearts."
The family says that Evan will likely undergo years of physical therapy to deal with his injuries.
"Right now we are focused on getting him out of the ICU of course and back to the United States," said Adam. "We have to make sure he stays alive day by day. He has a long road ahead."