Man paralyzed by jump into Lake Roosevelt


by, Lindsay Chamberlain

Posted on August 19, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 30 at 11:28 AM

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SPOKANE -- For John and Renea Yamada, every day after August 13 has been a see-saw of raw emotions.

That was the day their eldest son, Robert, 21, fractured his spine diving into Lake Roosevelt. And every day since then they've been at Sacred Heart Medical Center, waiting for a shred of good news about their son's condition.

"My son is a good boy and he doesn't deserve to be in this position," says John.

On August 13, Robert was enjoying a sunny day on Lake Roosevelt with his friends, boating and swimming.

He dove into the familiar waters from the beach, where he swam with friends and family before, but didn't surface.

According to John and Renea, Robert's friends at first thought he was playing a joke. Soon though, they realized the seriousness of what happened.

Robert's friends, suspecting he suffered a broken neck, quickly took Robert to shore, called 911, and performed CPR until a helicopter arrived. Fortunately, Robert's friends were recently recertified in CPR and life-saving skills.

That's when John and Renea received the call.

"That's one of the worst things you can hear," recalls John. "Robert's unresponsive, he's in a helicopter and going to the hospital."

John and Renea beat the helicopter to Sacred Heart, and watched as their son was taken into the trauma center.

"I wasn't sure if he was dead or alive at the time," says John.

Today, Robert is paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe on his own without the help of a ventilator. At one point, his heart stopped beating. Renea says doctors had it beating again within a minute and a half, and told her it's a fairly common thing to happen.

"It wasn't so normal for me," says Renea.

But there have been improvements to Robert's condition. Doctors used bone from his hip to help fuse the fractured vertebrates together. Though their son can't speak or communicate like he used to, he can mouth words, and even still has his sense of humor.

"He is already so driven toward getting better and fighting for his life," says Renea.

Donations can be made to any Inland Northwest Bank branch in Robert's name.