DALLAS — A woman from Prosper recovering from a freak accident on a beach in Hawaii, just days after she was married, finally met one of the men who helped rescue and get her stabilized before paramedics arrived.
On September 8, Nikki Lewis and her husband Will got married in Maui.
On September 12, most of their family had gone home. But the flight back to Dallas for some friends was delayed for a day, so Lewis, her husband, and those friends went to Big Beach on the island.
Lewis began to boogie board, but when a wave overcame her she was thrown into the sand head first. She broke her neck, was immediately paralyzed, and unconscious.
Luckily, Chad Harkins, an EMT from Tucson was in the right place at the right time.
Harkins was on the island for work, helping prep for Hurricane Olivia.
He was sightseeing on Big Beach when he saw Lewis and her husband struggling in the water—trying to get her to shore after the accident. “I threw my stuff to my friend, my wallet, my phone, and I went out to them,” Harkins said.
“She looked up at me and she said that she couldn’t feel, couldn’t move, and had a hard time breathing. It was a look that said, ‘I’m in trouble and I know it.’”
Harkins did what any EMT would do, and something an ordinary person might not even think to do. “I suspected damage to the C5 and above vertebrae. I grabbed her neck, so we could stop moving it as soon as possible,” Harkins said.
“I found the very boogie board that she was using to find a hard surface for her back and neck.”
Paramedics arrived shortly after and took Lewis to the hospital. Harkins said that he left his information and a statement with first responders just in case they needed it.
“As fast as it started, it ended,” Harkins said. “You send a couple of prayers up, and you hope everything is going to be ok.”
Harkins carried on with life. He returned to Tucson where he lives with his wife and two daughters. But then, not too long after the accident, he got a call from Lewis’ brother. “He said ‘we’ve been looking for you, and we’ve been trying to find you.”
Lewis’ family reached out to authorities in Maui to see if they took down any information from the stranger who saved her life. Harkins learned that likely because of his quick thinking with Lewis' neck, she's now having an astounding recovery.
She’s endured several surgeries but is standing up and walking during rehab at Baylor Scott &White. Wasn’t long before Lewis’ husband asked Harkins when a good time would be for him to reconnect with his wife. “I’m the lucky one, you know? My family’s the lucky ones to see how this plays out,” Harkins said.
This weekend, as Lewis was at Baylor Scott & White—Harkins surprised her in front of family. Their reunion was filled with smiles and tears. “If it weren’t for him, there may be more damage to my spinal cord,” Lewis said. “God put all the right people in the right place at the right time.”
Lewis said that Harkins is one of his heroes, but he sees things differently. “I did what I did, and the moment was over. She’s the one who’s having to deal with this every minute and every day,” Harkins said.
“It’s totally reversed. She’s my hero.” Lewis’ family is raising money to help with her medical bills.