Pool dive smashed his dreams in an instant

Despite paralysis, man hopes to regain his life
August 1, 2001

BY MARSHA LOW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

He came to Michigan a year ago filled with eagerness and ready to capture the American dream.

Safe diving tips
More than 850 people in America have serious spinal cord injuries as a result of diving accidents annually, according to the American Spinal Injury Association. A majority of these incidents leave people with paralysis or quadraplegia.

So before diving in, take some precautions:

Always check the water depth before diving. Water should be at least nine feet deep.


Check the water for obstacles such as large rocks.


Never dive in unfamiliar areas; remember that the depth of lake and river bottoms can change from year to year.


Only dive from a diving board, never from the side of a pool.


Do not dive into an above-ground pool.


Do not use alcohol or drugs before diving or swimming.


When diving, keep your hands extended over your head for protection.


Never push or throw people into pools.

Source: The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Ga.



At age 20, Karol Kubicki emigrated from Poland to attend St. Mary's College in Orchard Lake. He hoped to become a computer programmer, earning enough money for a nice home and travel.


But the dream will be deferred indefinitely after life took a drastic turn.


In June, Kubicki was in Warren celebrating a friend's new home with a dip in the backyard pool.


Diving in head first, Kubicki collided with the pool floor.


His neck snapped.


He lost consciousness.


He floated to the top of the water.


Dr. Jeffrey Fischgrund, the orthopedic surgeon in charge of Kubicki's care, said paralysis set in instantly and Kubicki is not expected to regain movement from the shoulders down.


He will remain at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak until his parents move from their second-story Hamtramck apartment into a home that can better accommodate their son.


In the meantime, a respirator helps him breath. He was recently reintroduced to soft foods and he is struggling through physical therapy twice a day to keep his muscles limber.


Although the reality of his condition is inescapable, Kubicki refuses to discuss the accident. Doctors say this reaction is normal and that he is mourning the loss of his limbs and the life he dreamed of.


"He won't speak a word of what happened," said Adam Kubicki, Karol Kubicki's father, through an interpreter. Both of Kubicki's parents followed him to the United States last October after he was accepted to college.


"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," his father said. "It is such a terrible thing."


According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Data Research Center, diving accidents account for one-fourth of the serious spinal cord injuries that occur annually in the United States. Only auto accidents, falling and gunshot wounds cause more spinal cord injuries.


The injuries from diving are most common among males ages 13 to 23.


"In an instant your life can change," said Fischgrund. "Prevention is key and I always tell people who are unfamiliar with a body of water to test it out feet first. Or better yet, just don't dive."


In alternating 12-hour shifts, Kubicki's parents remain at his bedside offering spoonfuls of ice cream and sips of black currant juice. Both have quit their cleaning and construction jobs to watch over their son. They manage expenses with the help of family and friends.


Leaders at St. Mary's College are soliciting donations and plan to organize fund-raisers for the family.


Kubicki has not given up on his dream.


"When I'm not so weak I would like to go back to school," he said. "It was my decision to come to the United States and I still want all the chances this country gives."

For more information about efforts to assist the Kubicki family call St. Mary's College at 248-706-5355 anytime.

Contact MARSHA LOW at 248-586-2610 or low@freepress.com.


__________________________________________________ __
Maksim (Max) Bily
mail to : imax@odyssee.net
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