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GALLERY: Teen surfer does a 360 back to his board, after freak accident


Glendale teenager Christian Sheehy knows the power behind a wave.

In April 2020 the then-13-year-old was knocked off his bodyboard while surfing with mates at Catherine Hill Bay.

He doesn’t remember much about that day, but his mother Kirsty says it was the beginning of what became a14-month long “roller coaster ride of emotions”.

“It was my first wave of the day,” Christian said.

“It was about eight or nine in the morning and there were already quite a few out in the water.”

Christian says he thought he’d head-butted his friend.

“I remember getting on the wave and it just didn’t feel right. I felt a thump, I thought I’d run into my mate.”

What he’d actually hit was a sand bank.

The competitive boardrider was instantly paralysed.

“His mate had to help him out of the water, otherwise he would have drowned,” Kirsty said.

“A brother and two sisters on the beach all helped get Christian out [of the water] and onto the sand. Then they called an ambulance.”

The three siblings, as fate would have it, were two off-duty lifesavers and a trauma nurse.

“I’m so grateful he was with his dad and that there were so many people around to help,” Kirsty said.

“And I’m glad it was pretty close to shore.”

A four-wheel drive ambulance arrived soon after, transporting Christian to a nearby field before he was airlifted for emergency care.

“Because it was a spinal injury and because he was paralysed he was taken by helicopter to Sydney,” Kirsty said.

Christian travelled under the care of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew, accompanied by his father Russ.

Kirsty followed behind, accompanied by her father.

“It was all pretty hectic then,” she said.

“I just had to get down there and see for myself what was going on.”

Kirsty stayed by Christian’s bedside for the next three-and-a-half weeks.

Doctors say he’d suffered C4 central cord syndrome, or ‘swelling of the spine’.

“None of his limbs were working,” Kirsty said.

What followed was almost five months of rehabilitation at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

“Long story short he had to learn to walk again and use his limbs. He had swelling of the upper spine,” Kirsty said.

Diligent with his rehabilitation, however Christian eventually returned home in August.

“More than 12 months later he is doing really well,” Kirsty says.

“He is 90% back to normal. He’s still having regular physiotherapy but improving everyday.

“I’m just so happy to see him doing all the usual teenage things again.

“Only time will tell if he’ll get his full strength back but it’s good to see him getting closer to it every single day.”

On Monday the Sheehy family will meet the Westpac Rescue Helicopter team that cared for Christian on that momentous day in April. 

The meeting, accompanied by a generous donation, will be the thank you Kirsty hopes will not only show their gratitude, but also symbolise the end of an incident they hope to move on from.

“We want to thank the Westpac Rescue team  in person for what they did for our family,” she said.

“But this is also about closing a chapter for us. 

“It’s going to be a great way to wrap up Christian’s journey with all the essential workers that have helped along the way with his recovery.”

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