A social worker came to Danny Cox's bedside, expecting him to be completely demoralized after being paralyzed from the chest down in a swimming accident last week.
"I came in to inspire him, but instead, he inspired me," the social worker said.
Many people who have visited Cox since the accident, as well as viewers of online videos of him in the hospital, have been similarly struck by his upbeat energy, despite the tragedy he experienced and the many challenges he now faces.
"I told him he has received a lot of e-mails from people telling how they are inspired by him, and the look on his face told me that he was happy about this," said his mother, Maureen McGowan, the owner of Graffiti restaurant in Petaluma.
Cox, 18, graduated from Petaluma High School in 2010. He was a talented long jumper at PHS, reaching the regional finals, and was planning to start attending the Fire Safety program at Santa Rosa Junior College this fall.
He was with friends, and flapping his arms as he ran into the water at South Lake Tahoe at around 4 p.m. on Aug. 10. He did a flat dive as he reached the shallow water, and felt a current —?possibly from a nearby boat — push his head down into the sand.
"Danny said that there were little waves coming in (toward the shore) regularly, and that he was aiming for them as he dove into the water," McGowan said.
The accident broke his neck, and the bone pushed on his spinal cord, damaging it.
"He couldn't feel anything, and was drowning," McGowan said. "He panicked, and started screaming, but his friend (Chris Sankoff) rescued him."
Three doctors who happened to be at the beach assisted Cox before emergency medical crews arrived.