Before Chad Fuller broke his neck, Saturday had been a good day.
The David City vice principal spent the morning enjoying St. Paul, Nebraska’s, annual summer celebration. Fuller and members of his family already had checked out the parade and kids games in the park, before gathering at the house of Fuller’s brother in town.
At Rusty Fuller’s house, family and friends swam and slid down the large Slip N’ Slide they’d used dozens of times to splash into the Lake of the Woods. But when Chad Fuller shot down the slide head first around 4 p.m., things went “terribly wrong,” Rusty Fuller said.
The family doesn’t know exactly how Chad was injured, but it might have had to do with the way he ducked his head to get into the water, Rusty Fuller said. The water where people enter the lake from the slide starts out about a foot deep before gradually getting deeper, he said.
Saturday, there wasn’t time for speculation. Chad wasn’t breathing.
Rusty Fuller said he and his sister pulled Chad out of the water.
Rusty, the head football coach and a physical education teacher at St. Paul High School, said he’d been CPR certified through his work at school and as a lifeguard. CPR was performed by family members, including Chad’s 19-year-old son, Raymond “Mack” Fuller.
“He did a great job,” Rusty Fuller said of his nephew. “That’s not something easy to do, but he’s holding it together pretty good.”
Chad was taken to the St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Grand Island, where he is recovering. He is paralyzed and relying on a ventilator to help him breathe, Rusty Fuller said. After his accident, Chad initially could feel nothing below his shoulders, Rusty Fuller said, but on Tuesday, he reported some sensation in his upper chest.
Chad had a tracheotomy done Wednesday and a feeding tube inserted, which Rusty Fuller said was “heading in the right direction.”
The family is waiting for Chad to breathe on his own and become stable enough to be transported before committing to any rehabilitation options, Rusty Fuller said. There’s no timetable on that road, he said, because rehab will need to last until Chad is able to live at home.
Chad’s “spirits are up” after being able to communicate with his family by using an alphabet board and blinking his eyes, Rusty Fuller said. The family hopes to soon progress to reading Chad’s lips.
Chad was a wrestling coach and teacher in Syracuse, Nebraska, before being hired as David City Public Schools’ Middle School-High School vice principal in 2014.
His wife, Tami, and his 10-year-old son, Andrew, were traveling at the time of the accident.
Support has poured in for Chad and his family from across the state. Thousands of people have shared well wishes on Facebook. Residents of David City, about 60 miles west of Omaha, gathered to finish work on Chad’s partially painted house Tuesday, and the Syracuse athletic boosters are looking to hold a “Team Fuller” T-shirt sale. A coed softball tournament scheduled for August in Syracuse already filled up its roster with 20 teams, Rusty Fuller said.
“It really is overwhelming, and we’re truly blessed,” Rusty Fuller said.
Donations toward Chad’s medical expenses can be sent to “Chad Fuller Benefits” at any U.S. Bank branch or to Countryside Bank in Syracuse.