Doris Quigley, 17, an East Hampton Town lifeguard who broke her neck diving into the surf at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett on August 22, was in good spirits and making progress toward recovery as of Tuesday morning.
Doris was able to move the knee and thigh area of her left leg on command Monday morning, according to John Ryan Jr., the town’s chief lifeguard. She had already moved her right toes, foot and leg on command, and a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital had been encouraging her to try the other side. She did not succeed at first, Mr. Ryan said Tuesday, but her doctor told her not to be discouraged. “As he went to walk out, she moved it,” he said.
The chief lifeguard has been receiving updates from Doris’s mother from the hospital, where the young woman was airlifted from the Amagansett Firehouse about an hour after the accident.
She is expected to be transferred to an in-patient rehabilitation center in New York City as early as this week.
Doris is the youngest daughter of Tom and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley of Northwest Woods in East Hampton.
Since the accident, Doris’s many relatives, friends, classmates and fellow lifeguards have been spending time with her at the hospital and sending her best wishes.
Mr. Ryan said there were 10 visitors in her intensive care room at one point on Monday night, including her parents and his daughters, Haley and Shannon, who reported that their friend and fellow lifeguard was “in very good spirits.”
The young woman had just finished her shift at Atlantic Avenue Beach and went into the water “just to cool off” at about 4 p.m. on August 22, Mr. Ryan said last week. “She dove in and hit her head somehow” on a sandbar. “It was a freak thing that happened,” he said, adding that it was “absolutely low tide” at the time of the accident.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who rushed to Stony Brook Hospital to join Doris’s family after the accident, said last week that “lifeguards were instant in their response” to the accident.
According to Mr. Ryan, Ms. Quigley was in the water with two friends, who are not lifeguards. They quickly motioned to those on shore that something was wrong.
As Doris’s fellow guards entered the water, the father of one lifeguard, who was already in the water, gave them his boogie board to support her until they got her to the tideline, where they used a backboard to immobilize her spine and neck.
“She was very emotional, obviously,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that Doris “basically was paralyzed from the waist down” immediately following the accident.
“It was very tough,” he said of the scene. “Most of these guards that were there at that point, they go to school with her. She’s one of our own.”
Two doctors happened to be on the beach, and one, who works in emergency trauma, spoke with Doris while another worked on her legs to check her reflexes, Mr. Ryan said. An Amagansett Ambulance crew took the injured swimmer from the beach to the Amagansett Firehouse to meet a Medevac helicopter, which landed on the firehouse property at approximately 5 p.m.
“They were so incredibly nice,” Ms. Quigley said Doris had told her of the Medevac staff and the EMTs.
On Thursday, after what he described as a two-hour surgery the night before at Stony Brook, Mr. Wilkinson visited Doris in intensive care, taking along get-well cards and a photograph, shot that morning, of her co-lifeguards at the beach. Ms. Quigley said that her daughter was “incredibly” articulate and has “no cognitive issues at all.”
By Friday, she was able to report that her daughter could wiggle her right toes and that her arms were stronger than the day before. Some “very good news” about the neck injury, a surgeon told the family, is that, “miraculously,” the broken bone did not penetrate the spinal fluid or cut any nerves. The spinal column was bruised, Ms. Quigley said.
“We are a very close family and very loving,” she said in a text message late last week. “We are all sharing this burden with Doris and glad to do it—indeed, if any one of us could take it from her, we would.”
Ms. Quigley said Doris’s friends had been lifting her spirits. “They are lovely young adults and so very generous,” she said. “They were wonderful and Doris loves them and all her friends who have texted, Facebooked and emailed.” “Many, many members of the community have reached out to offer support,” she also said, thanking her pastor and law firm as well. “We are grateful to the surgeons and staff at Stony Brook. We are grateful to Doris’s lifeguard family, her school family, her community family, all of whom have reached out to support us in this traumatic time.”