Page 4 - Heart of Hoag December 2014
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Dr. Jack Skinner, right, launched Project Wipeout to save surfers like Andrew Meredith.
Dr. Jack Skinner Reflects on
Project Wipeout’s 35-Year Legacy
Program has reached millions of people, saving lives and preventing beach injuries
Thirty-five years ago, specialist in Internal Medicine and avid surfer Jack Skinner, M.D., witnessed something that would forever change the way beach goers approach the ocean.
Walking through the emergency room at Hoag, Dr. Skinner noticed two patients who were brought in from local beaches with neck injuries sustained by diving headfirst into shallow water. Deeply saddened, he continued on to visit a patient of his in the intensive care unit, only to discover that fully half
the floor was populated with people who had also suffered beach-related neck injuries – traumatic injuries that would either end or permanently debilitate their lives.
Many of these swimmers and surfers were young soldiers from a local Marine base, men in their prime.
“I couldn’t believe it. I talked with all of them and learned that they, too, had suffered
neck injuries from running into the water and striking shallow sand bars out there,” says Dr. Skinner, 83, now retired. “So many of them were in excellent health, and then a moment later, they were in the ICU really fighting for their lives. We had to get the message out.”
Dr. Skinner and other concerned Hoag physicians, along with nurses and local lifeguards, launched Project Wipeout, an educational program that develops and distributes beach safety information throughout the country.
Geared toward those most at risk, people ages 16 to 30, Project Wipeout participates in community events and provides free educational presentations and materials to schools, community organizations and the media.
In the early days of Project Wipeout, a paralyzed surfer whose injuries confined him to a wheelchair helped spread the word about the program by visiting schoolchildren and telling his story. His cautionary tale drove home the importance of learning how to swim, watching for riptides and avoiding injury when at the beach.
“It was such a powerful message, that it really caught hold,” Dr. Skinner said.
While it is impossible to quantify neck injuries that don’t occur, scenes like the one Dr. Skinner encountered in the ICU all those years ago are now unimaginable.
Once lucky, forever grateful: Andrew Meredith received life-saving care at Hoag.

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