OCEAN CITY — An unidentified man suffered back and neck injuries while bodysurfing in the ocean off 82nd Street on Wednesday, and although his condition is not known, there were reasons for optimism after he was taken from the beach by ambulance.
Around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, a possible water rescue in progress was reported on the beach at 82nd Street, raising almost immediate concern in the resort community that had experienced two rip-current related drownings in the span of about two weeks earlier in June. However, the incident turned out to be a neck and back injury related to bodysurfing and not another active water rescue, although no less serious or concerning.
According to Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin, the victim was bodysurfing in the area of 82nd Street when the guard saw him lying face down in shallow water near the surf line. Arbin said bystanders began an attempt to drag the victim from the water, but were immediately warned by the Surf Rescue Technician (SRT) not to move him.
“The gentleman was lying face down in the surf and the first instinct of witnesses on the beach is to move him, but because of where he was on the beach, the guard warned bystanders not to touch him and began treatment of neck and back injuries,” he said. “One common misconception is that a broken neck means paralysis, but that isn’t always the case. However, we always treat them as if they are the worst case scenario.”
Arbin said the guard initially found the victim to have no pulse and began CPR. The victim was then stabilized with a neck brace and backboard and stabilized until paramedics arrived.
“It was an absolute textbook case of a neck injury,” he said. “We could tell by the bleeding to his face and nose that he hit the sand face first. We got his heart going and got him in a backboard and collar and he was transported by ambulance to PRMC.”
The beach patrol’s interaction with the victim ended at that point and his updated condition is not known, but Arbin said there were signs on the beach for a positive outcome.
“The good news for us is we got his heart going and he was breathing when he left the beach,” he said. “He also had grip strength in his hands, which is always a good sign with a neck and back injury.”
With the victim to the hospital, Arbin said the beach patrol then focused its attention on the victim’s wife, who was alone on the beach.
“By then, we were actually spending more time with the victim’s wife because there were a lot of people handling patient care,” he said. “Our sergeant in the area helped her get packed up and back to her condo where she could wait for her daughter to arrive.”
Arbin said the incident was one the beach patrol trains for and handles hundreds, maybe thousands of times throughout the summer.
“It was absolutely handled the exact way we train,” he said. “If I could have videotaped this incident, it could have become a training video. It’s sad when things happen, and we always ask ourselves if there was something we could have done differently, but in this case, the answer is no … We believe everything is going to be okay. All indications were that he was doing fine, but sometimes there are other issues when a victim is face down in the ocean and water aspirates into his lungs.”
Meanwhile, Arbin took the opportunity to again hammer home public safety messages. For example, swimmers are always encouraged to check with guards for changing conditions and body surfers are urged to keep their hands and arms out in front of them. Boogie boarders are urged to stay on the back half of the board to avoid going headfirst into the sand. Also he said never dive into an unknown water depth.