Patrick Ivison, 17, has lived all of his life in a wheelchair. But that hasn’t stopped him from getting on a surfboard — and it didn’t stop him from walking across the stage at his high school graduation, either.
Surfing, the California teen says, “feels like I’m flying.” For someone who struggles just to move, the water offers freedom. “It’s just the board, my friends and the water,” he told Jenna Wolfe in a segment that aired on TODAY Tuesday.
An accident left Ivison paralyzed when he was only a toddler. His mother, Jennifer Ivison, says it’s a miracle he’s even alive. “I think back to when the accident happened and how close I came to losing him.”
Ivison became paralyzed when a car was backing out of a parking space and didn’t see him, then at just 2 years old. The car backed into him. His mother expected the worst. “I knew instantly that he was gone,” she said.
Bob Misko, who rescued Ivison, saw something truly horrific: “I saw the car back directly over Patrick and pin him up and underneath the wheel well." Critically injured, Patrick was airlifted to the closest trauma center. His mother said, “I just remember sitting in the emergency room praying that I would be able to see him alive again.”Video: Quadriplegic teen catches some waves (on this page)
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Ivison survived, but his spine was crushed, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. “I'm technically a quadriplegic, which means basically that I have impairment in all four limbs,” he explained to Wolfe.
But that impairment didn’t stop him from participating in activities such as soccer, tennis, skateboarding and kayaking. And when Ivison saw the surfing documentary “Step into Liquid,” he grabbed hold of a new dream: to ride the perfect wave. He was inspired by Jesse Billauer, a surfer with spinal cord injury: “I was like, if he can do it, I can do it.”
Ivison has been in the water since age 9 thanks to Life Rolls On, an organization Billauer founded that helps people with spinal injuries participate in action sports.Video: Quadriplegic surfer: ‘I feel free’ (on this page)
For Ivison, surfing takes a team of people and a specially adapted board. Once he’s out in the water, his team pitches him into the surf, and for a few incredible seconds he is able to fly. His sister Sam and his mom are part of the team that make it all possible. “He's given a hundred percent every day of his life,” his mom said.
Ivison was first on TODAY in 2009, when he was a fearless high school freshman. Back then, he said that “nothing full out scares me.”Video: Quadriplegic teen walks at high school graduation (on this page)
It was his dream then to walk across the stage at his graduation. Three and a half years later, he was in his graduation line. In a room filled with thousands, he was able to stand. And as he did, so did the audience, giving him a standing ovation.
Ivison’s good news doesn’t end there. He’s been accepted into the film program at the University of Southern California — his dream school.
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