“I knew instantly when I hit,” he says. “You’re facedown in the water and you’re trying to get up and all of a sudden you realize that you can’t move.” His friends hauled him safely onto the beach, but Burkhart was paralyzed.
The former high school lacrosse goalie spent five weeks in a hospital on a ventilator recovering from the water he had inhaled and processing the news that he was now a quadriplegic. Growing up in suburban Columbus, Ohio, the third child of four, Burkhart had always been self-sufficient—the kid who insisted on doing his own laundry in middle school, who started a landscaping business in high school, and who was out at all hours the moment he got his driver’s license. Now his dreams of becoming a video editor looked as dead as his lacrosse career.
But from the start, Burkhart, now 23, had faith that 21st-century medicine could come to his aid. “One of the things that has helped me mentally ever since the accident is the fact that science and technology are growing and succeeding at such a rapid rate,” he says by phone from his family home in Ohio. “I always knew there was going to be something. I just didn’t know what or when.” More.