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Potomac Teen Recovering from Bodysurfing Accident

Movement in one arm is cause for celebration.

Josh Basile is a young man from River Falls in Potomac, who broke his neck in a bodysurfing accident at Bethany Beach, Del., on Aug. 1, 2004.

Josh, 19, a Bullis School graduate Class of ‘03, went from preparing to enter his sophomore year at Skidmore College (N.Y.), where he played on the men’s varsity tennis team, to fighting for his life at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit in Baltimore. His spinal injury was classified as a C-4 to C-5, which means that he is paralyzed from the shoulders down to his toes.

On Aug. 1, Josh was pulled from the water by the four friends who were bodysurfing with him. These boys — Adam Goldberg, Andrew Feldman, Patrick Hart and Peter Hart — acted quickly to, one, get Josh on to the dry beach and check his breathing; two, call for emergency medical help; and three, get Josh's father, a physician, from the nearby house. The boys kept Josh calm and warm until his father, John Basile, and the ambulance arrived.

Josh was taken by ambulance to a waiting helicopter and airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit. His mother, Nedra Basile, met him there. Josh had surgery the following day to stabilize his neck and to remove bone fragments from the area of the fracture. His parents and sister have been with him every step of his recovery.

After spending six weeks in the Shock Trauma Unit, Josh had recovered enough from his injury and a multitude of complications to be moved to the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) located in Washington, D.C. He undergoes intensive rehabilitation therapy six days a week. He is receiving state-of-the-art spinal cord injury therapy.

Josh has progressed from being dependent on a respirator to breathing on his own. He progressed from being fed by IV to eating soft foods. He can now sit in a wheelchair for short periods of time. He has enjoyed watching the Olympics, tennis and golf on TV, and is working his hardest to gain back his strength. He recently moved his right forearm and flexed his biceps. This was cause for great excitement among his family, friends and hospital staff.

For Josh, the next goal is to get his trach tube removed. He wants to be able to swallow more easily and to speak like he did before the accident. He is working on coughing and getting his lungs in good shape. This is necessary before the doctors will remove the trach tube.

So many people have been sources of inspiration for Josh — his parents, Nedra and John, a urologist at Fairfax Hospital; and sister Katherine, a junior at Clemson. Neighbors have brought his favorite foods to the hospital to help him gain some of the 30 pounds he has lost since the accident.

His former boss, Rick Harris in the Washington, D.C., office of Smith Barney, has been helpful to Josh in many ways at NRH. His continued support is much appreciated by Josh and his parents.

One of Josh's recent wishes was to get his hair cut — he has always been particular about his hair. Only George Caballero, of George's Barber Shop in Potomac Village, has cut Josh’s hair for the past eight years.

George Caballero decided to surprise this favorite client, arriving on Sunday, Sept. 19, with his equipment to give Josh his first haircut since the accident. The surprise brought a smile to Josh's face, and the haircut lifted his spirits.

Josh continues to improve. His parents are most hopeful that he will be home in Potomac before Thanksgiving. The Basiles are busy researching ways to make their home more accessible for Josh. They hope to start work on a special bathroom and entryway and plan to install an elevator. They hope to make their car wheelchair accessible. They share lots of hope for Josh’s continued recovery. The visits, cards and calls are all very much appreciated by Josh and his family.

The Basiles hope that no other family will ever have to go through what they have been through since Aug. 1. While Josh was at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit, the Basiles met three other families whose children had been admitted in one week to the unit with similar beach-related spinal cord injuries (i.e., broken necks). Education on the preventable nature of this type of accident at the shore is an issue that the Basiles wholeheartedly endorse. John Basile thinks it is because of the erosion causing the waves to break with such speed and velocity closer into shore. People are not aware that the sand/ocean floor is as hard as concrete when it is wet and compacted by the waves. Nedra Basile hopes that maybe one family will be spared an accident of this nature by making this information known.

Throughout this ordeal — in spite of the pain, heartache and daily struggles — Josh has kept his positive attitude and spirit, both of which he counted on to make him a star on the tennis courts.