Kennewick man paralyzed after fall during horseplay

A 20-year-old Kennewick man remains paralyzed after horsing around with some friends last week on the Columbia River north of Richland.

Jaxon Shoop and a few friends beached their boat July 26 near the sand dunes along the Hanford Reach National Monument and were playing leap frog, said Shoop's mother, Kathy.

"They were leaping over each other when Jaxon lost his footing," she said.

The horseplay was close to shore, so when he slipped, he dove toward the water, landing on his head, his mother told the Herald.

"He shattered his C5 vertebrae and broke the C6 vertebrae, as well as his nose," she said. "These are good boys who were not drinking, just playing around. My son is known for being a jokester so when he didn't move after falling in the water his friends just thought he was joking. But when he stayed face down in the water for several minutes they knew something was wrong and pulled him out then laid him out on the sand and went for help."

He is paralyzed from the neck down but there is hope he'll regain the use of his arms, she said.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Department boat patrol responded to the accident along with the Hanford Patrol and took Shoop across the river to the Ringold hatchery where a MedStar helicopter picked him up and took him to Kadlec Regional Medical Center, confirmed a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Shoop later was flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane where he underwent surgery to repair his shattered vertebrae.

"He has steel rods anchoring the fifth and sixth vertebrae to his fourth and seventh vertebrae," said his mom. "The doctors did an amazing job of saving his life. Normally, these kinds of injuries mean the person has to stay on a ventilator for more than a week. But Shoop was breathing on his own within a day following the surgery."

Wednesday, he was transferred to the St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane where he will remain for the next 10 weeks, she said.

Shoop, who attends the University of Idaho, was visiting the Tri-Cities while on vacation from his two jobs in Idaho.

She said the most amazing part of her son's recovery is that Shoop has maintained his sense of humor and determination to walk again.

"I'm a wreck about all this but he's been awesome," she said with a quivering voice. "He's polite and kind to all his nurses and does what he's told to do by his therapists."

Family and friends have flocked to Spokane to visit him, which continues to lift his spirits, she said. Anyone who would like to send Shoop a card can send it to him in care of St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute, 711 S. Cowley St., Spokane.

"God saw fit to spare him from young death, and his father and I are so grateful" said his mother. "The rest of his journey is yet to be told."

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com