Swimming Accident Severely Injures Ankeny Teen

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ANKENY, Iowa -- Justin Thorn is no stranger to water. He works as a lifeguard but it was the water that changed his life in an instant.

“He feels mad at himself. Why did I dive into that pool? I should have known better,” his mom, Lisa says.

The night of July fourth, the Ankeny teen was swimming at a friend’s pool when he dove too steeply into shallow waters, hitting the bottom and breaking his neck.

“Time kind of stopped right then and we had held  out hope that maybe it wasn`t that bad. As we were waiting for the x- rays to come back the trauma surgeon came in and said I’m sorry we have some very bad news,” she says as she tries holding back tears.

For the last week, the Thorns have spent nearly every moment by their son’s side in the intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center. Doctors say Justin is suffering from a severe spinal cord injury. It did not impact the mobility in his arm but it did in his hands and legs. Justin has no feeling from the chest down.

A miracle is what the family is praying for. Doctors say since the 16 - year - old is young and healthy, he could recover more quickly.

Next week, Justin will be transported to a spinal cord rehab facility in Colorado, where he will stay for about three months. His entire family is moving there to be with him during the recovery. It’s a step forward but the question of why this happened still lingers.

“One of the things we talked about earlier on is that, is what happens to other people. You need to be careful because you could be the other people,” says Justin’s dad, Jason.

The Thorns urge teens to think before they act, understanding the dangers and risks of what they are doing although they know that can be easier said than done.

“Would we have prevented Justin from going to that pool party? No, absolutely not. Teenagers want to hang out together and have fun and that`s exactly what they were doing.”

You can track Justin's progress, here. The family has also set up site to help pay for medical expenses.