By: Bridget Demouy/Liftable Before last August, the photos of Mike Droter’s life showed nothing unexpected for a young adult today. You would see him smiling at a party with his girlfriend, and you would see his love for skateboarding.
Today, the photos show how quickly life can change. Jordan Lovas — now his fiancée — is still by his side, but Droter is now a quadriplegic fighting time to recover as much of his functioning as possible.
Last August, Droter, 30, took Lovas to Hawaii as a present for her 25th birthday. Photos and video show the two of them splashing and laughing in the water.
Toward the end of the vacation, Droter proposed to Lovas, and she accepted. It seemed to be a dream trip.
But on their last day, Droter headed to the shore to enjoy the ocean one last time. In the water, a wave knocked his head back, slapping it against the ocean floor and causing a C1 spinal cord injury.
“I remember a wave coming,” Droter told KXTV. “Don’t remember getting hit directly, but I do remember waking up in the water. And I knew I was paralyzed immediately because I couldn’t swim out.”
Lovas heard screams and looked up to see Droter being pulled from the water. They stayed in Hawaii for more than a month, and the doctors’ prognosis was grim.
“He was told from the beginning he’d never breathe, talk, eat, or move again,” Lovas wrote on a GoFundMe page.
Thankfully, those doctors were wrong.
California man paralyzed during Hawaiian dream vacation with fiancée making strides in recovery: http://peoplem.ag/468L65U
Posted by People on Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Just six weeks after the accident, Droter spoke his first words. Among his strides since then, he regained movement in one of his thumbs and feeling on his left side, and he was able to hold Lovas’ hand.
Most recently, Droter began work with a physical therapy group that helps people with spinal cord injuries. On his Facebook and Instagram feeds, he shares videos of himself working on assisted bench presses and squats, as well as standing with the help of a tilt table.
Wedding goals are one step closer. I finally made it to 97° on the tilt table and this is only my second time on it. Shout out to @scifitsac for giving me the opportunity on a vent and shout out to everybody who shared and donated to get me started. #gymlife #motivated #c1 #quadriplegic #spinalcordinjury #c1quadriplegic #quadlife #quadwife #ventilator #ventdependent #mikedroandjlo #MJ23D
They are huge shifts. Droter told People that “When I went to show [my main doctor] my movements, she started crying.”
The commitment between Droter and Lovas is clear, and the two seem determined to bring the best possible attitude to the situation. She left her job to help care for him, and the couple recently went to see the Chainsmokers for his birthday, their first concert since the injury.
Droter and Lovas know that this time is crucial. “He is defying all odds right now and with a spinal cord injury time is against you,” Lovas said on the GoFundMe page, a necessity as they face hefty therapy costs. “Most of the movement comes back within the first year, and after that, it’s slower and harder.”
It is also crucial because Droter has a goal he is determined to see through. The couple will wed on March 23, 2018, and Droter wants to stand for it.
“The main goal for that day is standing up, being able to look my bride right in her eyes, of course,” Droter told KXTV. “My second goal … is I want to to put the ring right on her finger.”