The good news: Bryan Bedder is getting better all the time.
What a difference a year makes.
On Dec. 4, 2014, the freelance celebrity photographer was in town on assignment for Getty Images covering Art Basel parties.
During a break, Bedder decided to meet up with some friends in South Beach and take a swim.
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He dove head first into a wave, and life changed in an instant.
“I expected the water to be a lot deeper, but suddenly there was a sandbar,” recounts Bedder, back in Miami almost exactly a year to the day, again for Basel-related events. “Right away I knew something was wrong.”
What was wrong: Bedder had fractured his neck — his C5 vertebrae, to be exact — and could not move.
A small wave popped Bedder’s limp body back up to the surface for a life-saving breath of air. Noticing a commotion, fellow bathers dragged him from the water.
“My friends ran down to see what happened. I told them, ‘Get my phone. Call my wife. Tell her I’m paralyzed,’” said Bedder, the father of a 5-year-old daughter. “It went pretty blurry after that.”
Paramedics rushed the Upstate New York native to Jackson Memorial, where Bedder was stabilized. The next morning he underwent surgery and remained in Miami for two weeks before being moved to a rehab center in NYC, where he lives with his family.
“Bryan is one of the lucky ones,” says friend and director of Public Impact at Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Alan T. Brown, who suffered a similar fate while body surfing in Martinique in 1988, which left him paralyzed. “Miracles happen.”
Indeed, Bedder is extremely fortunate that surgeons were able to get him back snapping celebs, but there’s a long way to go.
“I have good days and bad,” he says. “Basically, I can function pretty normally, but there are weird residual problems. My core is very weak. I stumble here and there and still get a lot of muscle spasms and cramps.”
Bedder credits the great care he received at Jackson in the first days after his injury and went back to visit the floor and thank the team, posting pictures on social media, with a special shout-out to his surgeon, Dr. Allan Levi. “Forever grateful for your hard work,” read the caption.
Despite it all, Bedder swears he is not afraid to take a dip in the sea.
“I made a mistake. I know exactly what it was: running and jumping head first. If you were hit by a car, would you never cross the street again? No, you would be more careful. I love the ocean. It’s where I feel good and comfortable.”