West Seattle native fights back from bizarre surfing injury

addie.jpgThat’s 20-year-old Adrianna “Addie” Killam, who grew up in West Seattle — graduating from Our Lady of Guadalupe in 2002, Holy Names Academy in 2006, then heading to Arizona to go to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical and Engineering University. Today, she traveled home to Seattle on a plane from Maui – but it was no tourism flight – it was a “medical lift” so that Addie could be admitted to the University of Washington Medical Center for therapy and rehab after a spring-break surfing jaunt left her with a spinal-cord injury. Family friend Maureen Emerson e-mailed WSB to help get the word out about Addie’s injury — which didn’t happen the way you might think after hearing the phrase “surfing injury” — and her fight to recover, which she’s chronicling online:

Maureen says lots of people know Addie: “She was an avid Girl Scout, leading her local troop in cookie sales for several years, she is an accomplished figure skater, has recently worked at the Denis Uniform Store, and has lived in West Seattle with her parents, Bob and Ginger Killam and brother, Andy, all her life.”

Now, as Maureen tells it, Addie is fighting to get back to a normal life, after the accident in Hawaii on March 19: “She and her 3 college roommates signed up for a surfing lesson and she was out on the board for the first time. She came out of the water relatively soon, having experienced no trouble whatsoever. She felt a little weird on her way up the beach, but didn’t want to interrupt her friends’ lesson, so she just sat there trying to figure out if she was coming down with something or what. Hours later, she had her friend’s take her to a clinic. She started to feel numb in her toes. When she called her mom for insurance info and told her about the numbness, her mom told her to get straight to a hospital. Later that afternoon, the hospital called Seattle to tell mom that Addie had a non-traumatic surfing injury known as ‘Surfer’s Myelopathy’ that affects the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis.”

Maureen says research revealed this is fairly common in first-time surfers because of the blood supply to the spinal cord getting cut as the surfer twists the neck to look back for waves while hyperextending the back; here’s a Hawaii newspaper article about it.

Good news is, according to Maureen, full recovery is very possible, but it will take a lot of work: “Addie is heading to the UW Physical Therapy rehab unit … so we all remain very hopeful. It’s just a little daunting to think how this will affect her and her family over the next coming months.”

One thing they’re using to keep family, friends and others updated is a website that includes journal entries, a guestbook, and other updates (when a fundraiser is announced, for example, that info will be on the site). You can find it here:

12 Replies to "West Seattle native fights back from bizarre surfing injury"

  • Seana Barker April 4, 2008 (7:51 am)

    Hope your flight went well Addie – so glad to have you back in WA State for your recovery! Keep up the good attitude and work as it will pay off in the end. We love you and your family and can’t wait to see you soon. So glad Maureen shared your story on the WS blog – I was actually thinking of posting it too!


  • Erik April 4, 2008 (12:38 pm)

    Actually this isn’t that bizarre if you think of it in a bio-mechanical sense.
    Most humans walk, sit, stand with a flexion bias. This could be because of many factors in their history, but it’s basically the startle reflex made chronic. The anti-gravity muscles (those on the front side of your body) are used to doing the work and have allowed the extensors (back) become somewhat flaccid. There is no such thing as hyper extension of the back, but rather it’s that she was standing with less flexion than normal which interupted her skeleton and nervous systems learned pattern.
    Hopefully the PT’s will understand this and not try to strengthen her into her old habits. Recovery can be much quicker then.

  • Paula and Rhett April 4, 2008 (5:49 pm)

    Stormin heaven for guidance on this seemingly wild ride of yours. At your beck and call, put us to work! We want to help! Meanwhile we are working the beads. Love ya girl!

  • Cathy Miller April 5, 2008 (12:04 pm)

    A Addie Killam Benevolent fund has now been established through the Washington Mutual Bank. Go into any WA MU and tell them you’d like to make a donation. With the long journey ahead we need your support. On behalf of the Killam family, thanks for all your prayers and gifts.

  • Michaelle Crovisier April 7, 2008 (12:12 am)

    Remarkable! Miss Addie! I wanted to share that this young lady is providing inspiration through her caringbridge site, in 2 hospitals, and throughout a real estate company from Bellingham to Austin Tx. Courage and love are Miss Addie’s words!

  • Cathy Miller April 7, 2008 (11:55 am)

    Fund Raiser: Sue Cramer’s CRAFT-A-PALOOZA
    Stock up on all of your Art and Crafts supplies.
    Sue Cramer 4119 S. 224th Place, Kent, WA 98032
    FRIDAY, 4/18 7-9PM Saturday, 4/19 11 AM – 3PM

  • Cathy Miller April 7, 2008 (12:05 pm)

    Sue Cramer is sponsoring an Arts and Crafts supplies
    sale. All proceeds go directly to Addie.
    SUE CRAMER 4119 S. 224th Place, Kent, WA, 98032
    Friday, 4/18, 7-9 PM Saturday, 4/19, 11 AM- 3 PM

  • WestSeattleArtgirl April 7, 2008 (12:55 pm)

    Check out the fun and funky altered books and art quilts donated by local artists at Friends & Co. Rubber Stamping Store on California. All proceeds go directly to Addie’s Fund. Good while supplies last!

  • Michaelle Crovisier May 17, 2008 (7:04 am)

    Addie, your peeps now coined “Addies Angels”, are amazing! Yesterday 15 people made quick work of the interior painting. There was good music and food, but my favorite was the B-day cake you and mom sent me via Bob. It is all fresh for beautiful taupe and sunny yellow!
    Today the doors are going in and next week the red carpet ramps and we are refinishing the floors. Keep working hard we are all so inspired by you!

  • Cathy Miller May 29, 2008 (8:31 pm)

    Do you want to be part of the final push for Addie’s extreme Home make over???
    We need volunteers badly this weekend. We only have 4 names signed up as of this writing.
    Work party this Sat. 5/31 and Sun. 6/1.
    10:00am – till we drop.
    Focus- finish the front deck rails, build the back deck and more inside dry walling and finishing touches.
    Does any one know how to finish Hardwoods??
    Call Michaelle @ 206-349-4663 or
    Dean/Cathy @ 360-341-1799

  • Beaboveit June 6, 2008 (8:54 am)


    Final touches are happening this weekend to get Addie’s home finished for her arrival home. There is still plenty of help needed-

    Call Michaelle @ 206-349-4663 or
    Dean & Cathy @ 360-341-1799

    Details on what we are working on this weekend can be found at the work party blog. There is also a really cool and inspirational video put together by Michaelle’s son!


  • beaboveit June 24, 2008 (5:54 pm)

    Friends, Angels & Neighbors-

    Join us this Saturday, June 28th anytime between 3-7pm
    to welcome Addie home
    and say thank you to all of Addies Angels!

    Please bring your favorite potluck item; salad, dessert or side.

    See you there!

    8657 17th Ave SW Seattle, WA 98106


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