Parents of Torrey Pines Teen Send Out a Warning After Water Accident

A Torrey Pines High School alum survived a devastating injury after diving in shallow water and now, his parents are sharing his story in the hopes of helping others.

Jonah Karpman, 18, graduated in 2017 and was on his way to the University of California, Berkeley for college.

But an unfortunate injury days before Christmas altered his life's course and forced him to put learning from textbooks on hold and instead relearn how to live his life.

One day last December while rowing in Mission Bay, Jonah did a shallow dive into the water outside The Rowing Center and hit his head on the bay floor. He severely injured four of his cervical vertebrae in the process.

"He surfaced face down. One friend was in the water. He couldn't turn over. He couldn't turn himself over," said Jonah’s father, Mark Karpman.

His friends yelled for help and called Jonah's mother.

Jonah left a heartbreaking message.

"'Mom, come to the hospital. It's bad,' Mark Karpman recalled. "She was in a panic. She called me at work and I didn't know what she said I just knew when she said 'Mark,' I just knew right away that it was something serious."

Unaware that Jonah suffered a potentially paralyzing injury, his friends pulled him out of the bay and onto the shore. The added movement made his injuries worse.

Jonah went from surgery to the ICU, and then to Denver for an extended stay at a rehabilitation center where he is relearning how to use his body. He has no feeling from the chest down.

His parents wanted to share Jonah's story in hopes it may make others more aware of their consequences.  

"You finally get them kind of launched into the world, good school, good future; it was awful. It was really awful," explained Jonah's father. "He was not a super risk-taker. He enjoyed snowboarding, he enjoyed sports, but he was pretty careful in what he decided to do."

It's important to know what to do if you suspect someone has a spinal cord injury. Doctors say first, call 911 and do not move the person.

Also, they suggest using towels and clothing on both sides of the neck to prevent any movement. That should be number one priority.

The Karpman's home will have to be modified and so that Jonah can perform the most basic task upon his return. And when he goes back to college he'll need a full-time nurse.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with those costs.

“He doesn’t accept defeat," Jonah's dad said. "He’s very determined. It serves him well already.”

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