Paralyzed swimmer returns to the pool after tragic accident

Teenage swimmer Nick Andrade faced his fear and returned to a place that formerly brought him job – a competition swimming pool with a diving board.

A diving accident changed his life in September when he permanently injured his spinal cord, paralyzing Nick from his neck down. Andrade was swimming in a river near his home in Brazil and was injured when a dive went wrong.

A recent graduate of Charlotte Catholic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Andrade was a star of the school’s competitive swimming team and competed often in meets such as the Charlotte UltraSwim. He returned to a meet last week for the first time after his accident.

“It’s hard because I’m not used to being like this. I’m used to preparing for races,” Nick said as he waited on the sidelines in his wheelchair, observing the sport which was once his favorite activity.

In support of Andrade, his friends, fellow SwimMAC team members, and neighbors worked together to raise the $70,000 it required to bring the swimmer back to Charlotte. The fundraisers ranged from wristbands, car magnets, and pizza nights to an event to “Swim Nick Home from Brazil” that had the swim team swimming down each lane of the 22-lane pool. Although he was able to make the trip, his supporters have continued their efforts; some were at the pool on Saturday receive $5 donations for Andrade in exchange for wristbands and car magnets.

Neighbor Scott Utesch, whose son took lessons from Andrade, said, “There’s 10-15 kids that are part of SwimMac because of Nick, so he’s made a difference. People are obsessed with famous swimmers, but sometimes it’s the guys like Nick that, quietly in a little neighborhood swim team, caring and encouraging the younger generation – they’re having a huge influence too.”

Andrade’s family toured the facility during their visit, visiting the National Team tent and other sections of the meet. Several notable swimmers who had grown up on SwimMAC such as Olympians Ricky Berens, Cullen Jones, and Ryan Lochte were present to support Andrade and encourage him in spite of his injury and subsequent disability.

The director of the swim meet, Jeff Gaeckle, said to the National Swim Team, “He’s got a tough road ahead of him, but like you all, he’s a fighter.”

The injury has been a struggle for Andrade’s parents and family to deal with as well. Andrade’s father, Robson, had always thought his son would invest his ability in soccer. Seeing the overwhelming support and encouragement Andrade has received has made the father grateful for his son’s choice in sport. “We had a swimmer right among us, and the family they built around our family is amazing. It’s amazing.”

In Nick’s own words, the perseverance, commitment, and discipline that served him so well in swimming will now play a huge role in his daily life.

“It’s probably the only way I got through this part of my life,” he said, before stating that he fully intends to get back into the water eventually, sans the ventilator that now helps him to breathe. “I have to keep moving forward, and that’s what swimming taught me.”

Nick is blessed to be alive, despite his injury. He is looking forward and making the most of his situation, but the effects of an injury such as his can have long-lasting and permeating impacts on his finances. As the warmer weather approaches, swimming pool accident attorney Jeffrey Killino recommends you up your safety precautions for children near the water. Diving accidents, slips, and drownings can occur in a heartbeat. If your child was injured in a swimming pool accident, Jeffrey Killino can help you determine if you are entitled to compensation for your hardship, and walk you through the legal process. Contact him today for a free case evaluation.