Wentzville family seeks community support after son is paralyzed in diving accident

Zach Meyer, 20, graduated from Holt High School in 2021 before moving to Florida to attend flight school.
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 4:03 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT
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WENTZVILLE, Mo. (KMOV) - A recent Holt High School graduate suffered a tragic accident this summer, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

Zach Meyer, 20, graduated from high school in 2021 and moved to Florida last spring to attend flight school, with hopes of becoming a commercial pilot like his father.

“I really enjoyed it, that was my life for a couple of months while I was down there and I absolutely loved it,” Meyer said. “It’s something you can’t get back to and do without having all your mobility.”

Zach was swimming with friends over the July 4th weekend when he dove head first into the pool. He remembers the moment his head hit the bottom.

“I immediately was paralyzed and couldn’t move anything,” he said. “I didn’t lose any consciousness and I floated to the top of the pool and I was still face down. I had a buddy next to me and I tried reaching out and tapping him but I couldn’t move anything.”

He said about 30 seconds later, his friends realized something was wrong and carefully turned him over onto his back, waiting with him until first responders arrived. Upon arriving at the hospital, Zach was rushed into surgery, having broken his C5, C6 and C7 vertebrae.

His mother, Julie Meyer-Smith and his step-father, Bob Smith, were on a camping trip at Mark Twain Lake when Meyer’s father called to let them know of the accident. The pair booked the next flight out and arrived in Florida the following day.

“He {the doctor} said on a scale of 1 to 10 for a spinal injury, this is a 10,” Smith said. “They put screws and rods in, they went in through the back of the neck rather than the front, which he said they prefer to do, but because there was so much damage to the front, they did the back.”

Meyer spent 10 days in the ICU in Florida before transferring to Craig Hospital in Denver, a facility that specializes in Meyer’s injury.

“I don’t have any movement in my hand yet, so far it’s just arms, shoulders and wrists a little bit,” said Meyer.

He was diagnosed quadriplegic and has been fitted with a wheelchair, and takes part in extensive in-patient therapy and rehabilitation. Meyer said he will likely remain in Denver for the next month or two, before returning home to Wentzville.

While insurance will cover some of Meyer’s needs, there are things it won’t cover, like a wheelchair-accessible van, a bed able to turn Meyer during the night, wheelchair lifts and ramps. The family has started a GoFundMe to help with these unexpected expenses.

“We’re not people to ask for help, but we certainly appreciate anything,” said Meyer-Smith.

Meyer’s mother and stepfather would like to add on to their current two-story home, giving Zach an area where he can be independent, but still under the same roof.

“He’s always going to need some help of some sort, but the more independence he can have, that’s our goal,” said Smith. “He’s 20 years old, he’s got a life ahead of him, we want to give him as much independence as he can have.”

Meyer said he’s hopeful to regain some function in his hands, which would allow him to feed himself, bathe himself and brush his teeth.

“It will take time,” he said. “But there’s nothing you can do about it, so you just have to keep going to your therapy and working the muscles you do have.”