Quest to walk again: Tucson man fights to recover from trampoline park injury
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Kids love them. Doctors fear them. And here in Arizona- there's no watchdog for them. Blake Haines knows that all too well.
It happened September 8, 2013, inside Get Air. Fifteen minutes left before close.
"I remember it all very clearly, like it was yesterday," said 20-year-old Blake Haines.
Blake set his eyes on the foam pit and took flight for the last jump of the night.
"I got pretty high," said Blake. "Rotating pretty fast, then I landed. My head snapped back."
Right then Blake knew something went wrong.
"I could hear him in the background yelling at the bottom of the foam pit," said Bart Haines, Blake's father. "It kind of sends chills down my spine when I hear that."
Blake broke his neck, partially paralyzed from the neck down.
"It's definitely emotionally challenging," said Blake.
He was bound to a bed or a wheel chair with little to no movement. But what a difference eight weeks makes.
"It's kind of like a journey we're all on," said Brianna Murphy, Blake's physical therapist at the Barrow's Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
Murphy and his family have been there every step of the way.
"Some days are better than others," said Blake.
"We have our struggles and times when there's tears," said Bart.
But the tears are now turning into smiles, even laughs, and a push to walk again. His therapy is grueling. In the water, Blake with some help, can stand again. He's building endurance. Sensation is returning all over his body. He already has enough strength to sneak in a jab at dad. Everyday he's hungry for more.
"I'm a little impatient, but things like this are going to take time," said Blake.
"We know it's going to be a long road," said Bart.
Unfortunately, it's a road more people are having to travel.
"Blake's injury could be anybody's injury," said Murphy. "It can happen to anybody."
And it has. According to reports obtained by 9OYS, there have been 13 emergency calls to Get Air since the park opened in August. The list of serious injuries: a fractured leg, a crushed kneecap. It's why UAMC's trauma center is so concerned.
"We get to see here the very worst of what happens on trampolines," said Dan Judkins, a injury epidemiologist at UAMC. "We don't wish that on anybody. We think people should be very careful."
And lately, UAMC's ER has seen a spike in injuries. Consider this: six came in in August. Seven in September. The average is three per month, and 58 percent of those happened at trampoline parks.
"There isn't a safe way to do it," said Judkins. "Anybody who chooses to be on a trampoline is going to increase their risk for injury. That's just absolutely the fact."
It's why places like Get Air make you sign these waivers. The risks are clear, but are they really "accidents waiting to happen?" 9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito took that question and the data to the park to see what they had to say.
"Tucson never had anything quite like this," said Get Air owner Patti Goodell. "Of course there's going to be an increase in jury."
The park points to safety videos, monitors, posted rules and signs, their efforts to keep everyone safe. But Blake's father says things were different before his son's injury.
"There wasn't a lot of good supervision," said Bart.
And as for the 'no double jump' signs.
"That happened after this incident," said Bart.
The park maintains they've always been there.
"We're trying all angles to make it safe," said Goodell. "You can step on the curb and not be safe. We can't just live in a box."
Most troubling to experts, no one is regulating the industry in Arizona. And with two new jump centers in the Tucson area alone, visited by more than 40,000 people so far, safety falls on each individual business.
"People love it, but it's very dangerous," said Judkins.
"We don't want it to be pegged as a bad thing," said Goodell. "We've been widely accepted here. People have loved it."
Back in Phoenix, Blake's family says they don't blame anyone. They just want people to know it can happen and that there's an inherent risk.
"It's hard to see him in the chair," said Bart.
Their focus now is getting Blake through it.
"Blake is still Blake," said Murphy. "He still likes to drive his wheelchair really fast, too fast. He knows that."
Dad's working hard to keep up because for Blake there's no such thing as too fast.
"There've been some rough patches, but you just got to keep going," said Blake.
Blake's recovery has been dramatic. On Wednesday, Blake will leave Barrows in Phoenix and move back to Tucson to continue outpatient therapy. There's still a long road ahead.
If you prefer to receive a receipt for charitable donations, Calvary Chapel, Bart and Kim's church in Sierra Vista, has agreed to handle donations for Blake. Please use this address if you want to send something for Medical Expenses and indicate gift is for "Blake Haines Medical".
Calvary Chapel Sierra Vista
1155 E. Wilcox Dr.
Sierra Vista AZ 85635
Cards or well wishes can go to this address:
Bart & Kim Haines
P.O. Box 126
McNeal, AZ 85617