The paralysis struck nearly the instant Carson Pforsich’s head hit the ocean floor that Sunday afternoon in Bodega Bay.
He felt no pain. But as he lay face down in the water, unable to move or beckon help, he was thinking, “Please, come get me. Otherwise, I’m done.”
His friend Anthony Lepori quickly noticed the 17-year-old Analy High senior was not moving and strode toward him and lifted him from the water. Two other friends helped carry Pforsich back to the beach and set him down gently. He had fractured a vertebra in his neck and badly bruised his spinal cord.
His friends had gotten to him so fast he was able to hold his breath the whole time he was in the water.
It would be the first of many circumstances that turned in Pforsich’s favor over the ensuing hours and days since the Sept. 24 accident, bolstering the Sebastopol teen’s faith in the prospect of a full recovery as he faces rehabilitation and the challenges ahead.
He is buoyed, as well, by an outpouring of love, support and gestures of solidarity from a community that has grown wider and deeper with each passing day, as word of his accident spread and gave rise to the hashtag #pforsichstrong13, in reference to his Analy High football jersey.
He’s received cards, messages and phone calls nonstop visitors bearing baked goods, balloons and sport-related keepsakes, as well as testimonials from others who have sustained similar injuries and recovered.
Under the Friday night lights that brighten high school football stadiums this time of year, the Tigers’ wide receiver was honored at rival campuses and others around the region with huge banners, posters and messages of encouragement. Images were posted online for him to see.
At Analy, where Pforsich ordinarily would have been suited up for the game, his 16-year-old sister, Kelsey, a junior at the school, wore the blue-and-white No. 13.
Striding onto the field arm-in-arm with her brother’s teammates, she stood in for him as honorary captain during the pre-kickoff coin toss against Marin Catholic.
The No. 13 Wildcats jersey presented to her by the opposing team and signed by all of its players hangs now in Pforsich’s room in intensive care, a reminder of the hundreds of people who on a single night took time to wish him well.
Asked about it a few days later, unabashed gratitude washed across his face.
“It made me feel so good,” Pforsich said.
Part of a longtime Sebastopol family active in community — both parents are Analy alumni — Carson Pforsich has spent his life in west Sonoma County, playing sports and roaming the scenic landscape. In addition to football, he plays baseball for the Tigers and has played basketball and soccer as a youth, as well.
After high school, he’s been planning to complete his general education requirements at Santa Rosa Junior College, with hopes of becoming a physical therapist or professional trainer some day and maybe opening a gym — maybe a gym by day/bar by night operation, to keep it interesting and profitable, he jokes, revealing a cheeky sense of humor.
On the day of his injury, Pforsich and three friends, Lepori, Jaylynn Serpa and Merritt Taggart, drove to Bodega Bay to have lunch at the Boat House restaurant and visit a friend who works there.