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Minn. Deputy Paralyzed In Mexico Swimming Accident

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- What started as a winter vacation getaway turned into a struggle to survive for a Minnesota deputy.

Last month, 39-year-old Jeff Edwards was vacationing with his girlfriend and other friends in Ixtapa, Mexico.

While swimming in the ocean, he got caught in a wave and was slammed into the ocean floor.

"Rode the wave out, did a somersault. After the wave went over me, I tried standing up and nothing was there," Edwards said.

It was something he'd done dozens of times while vacationing with friends in Mexico, but this wave was different. And when Edwards hit the ocean floor, he lost feeling from his chest down.

Worse yet, he was stuck underwater.

"Then I started panicking," Edwards said. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I could die here,'" he said.

Luckily for Edwards, he could do a push-up just enough to get his head above water. He screamed for help. His friends came running and pulled him out of the ocean -- and one of them is a doctor.

"I think I probably would've been gone right now, I think I would have been dead if I did't have them there," Edwards said. "And then to have Kara, who's a doctor, she was a godsend."

It was quickly determined he would have to be flown back to the Twin Cities. Friends used their credit cards to help pay for a $30,000 emergency flight.

Edwards is now at Abbott Northwestern, re-learning how to do basic things like getting dressed and writing his name.

"He dealt with it by [saying], 'Now what do I need to do? And what do I need to get back on track?'" therapist Jennifer Theis said.

As a Grant County sheriff's deputy, Edwards has his sights set on someday returning to work. But for now, the father of two is just thankful for the surprising show of support.

"It's been awesome. A lot of visitors, like, you know, the cards, you know, the Caring Bridge," Edwards said. "It's been overwhelming. I can't thank everyone enough for all they've done."

Edwards was diagnosed with a cracked C-7 vertebra. He has had surgery to repair it, but there's no timetable on when he might be able to walk again.

The good news is his spinal cord was not severed.

If you would like to donate to Edwards' medical fundraising effort, click here. And click here to visit his Caring Bridge site.

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