Paralyzed man warns swimmers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Paralyzed man warns swimmers

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April 30, 2004

Ochlocknee - "We were out Rupp bridge," says Jake Ricks. He loves the water. Every weekend he was at same swimming hole with friends.

He says, "We were out there swimming and having fun. It was a summer day, Sunday afternoon, and I've been swimming there all my life."

But a fun filled Sunday afternoon soon turned tragic. Jake and his friends were playing a game of Gator. He was supposed to swim from one side of the creek to the other, but after he dove in, he wouldn't make it back up on his own.

He explains, "Jumped up too high and landed on top of my head. The first thing I knew, I hit real hard. My neck was hurt. I couldn't move anything, it immediately paralyzed me."

He couldn't get to the top and was out of breath. He gasped, breathed in water and lost consciousness.

Ricks says, "The next thing I knew, I woke up on the side. They had grabbed me and pulled me out and done CPR and brought me back to life."

But his life would never be the same. Just two weeks shy of his 16th birthday, Jake could barely move his head, let alone drive a car. But he didn't let it get him down. He says, "I believe everything happens for a reason."

One reason? To let others know life is fragile. "Life's a gift and it's something that we really shouldn't take for granted," he says. "Things could happen so we should really be careful."

Know your surroundings, and don't take chances even in familiar places. It's been eight years since Jake Ricks was paralyzed. He's still going to therapy and hopes to be out of that wheelchair one day soon.

posted at 5:25 PM by karen.collier@walb.com