Forsyth County father paralyzed in body-surfing accident

ATLANTA — A local family is turning their tragedy into a lesson for others.

A Forsyth County father became paralyzed while body surfing along the Alabama gulf shore. Stephen Franke says a wave slammed him to the shore.

“The waves were just rapid one after another. I just happened to pick the wrong wave,” Franke said.

He and his wife Rene spoke with Channel 2’s Wendy Corona from his Shepherd Center room about the accident that happened in July.

The entire family was vacationing together when Franke went back in for one last bodysurf with his daughter before calling it a day.


“My positioning on the wave just wasn't right,” Franke said.

Stephen says it didn't feel right and he still vividly remembers the moment he got slammed by a wave.

“(It was) pretty shallow water so I cut through the water pretty quick and went straight to the sand to my forehead,” he said.

Rene Frank says it was no accident that nurses were nearby when it happened.

“I watched my husband come out of that ocean and I watched God bring him back with us and it's everything,” she said.

Doctors say this type of injury is not uncommon. %



“Unfortunately we do see a lot of these injuries especially in the summertime from all parts of the country,” said Dr. John Lin. “Since he's been here for the last several weeks he has regained some strength in his left leg to the point that he can kick it out now.”

Stephen Franke believes his journey can serve others.

“There’s a lot of people bodysurfing at a lot of different beaches and accidents happen,” Stephen Franke said.

The father of four injured his spinal cord. He now spends his days going to work at the Shepherd Center gym rehabilitating.

“It's a day by day thing. A different thing fires up every day,” Stephen said. “I'm confident I’m gonna be able to walk.”

When he first arrived at Shepherd in late July he could really only shrug his shoulders. Now he’s gaining arm and leg strength and is able to wiggle his toes.

“To watch him today stand up with the help of Briget, it's amazing. It's just a miracle,” Rene Franke said.

Stephen Franke’s discharge date is in October and his goal is to walk out.

Both Rene and Stephen say that despite the challenges, the best days are ahead.

“Just the outpouring of love for this man and our family…the best days are ahead,” Rene Franke said.

Stephen Franke said people need to be careful, but also don't hold back from living life.

The family has created a GoFundMe page to help with medical bills.