Man paralyzed diving into pool talks to Channel 11 about recovery

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PITTSBURGH - The simple things are difficult for Dan Hika.

Standing up, raising his arms and basic movements leave him out of breath.

"I'm tired,” he said during a recent rehab.

This Navy veteran isn't used to limitations.

He was the family handyman, the proud dad on the sidelines and the life of the party.

"Why'd you have to bring that up? Because now emotionally it's going to get to me," he told Channel 11's Courtney Brennan.

Dan rarely talks about what happened on June 19.

He was swimming with his sons and their friends in their backyard pool in New Kensington when he dove into four feet of water.

"His face was beet red. His eyes were beet red," said his son, DJ.

"I thought I wasn't coming up out of the water. I was struggling,” remembered Dan. “All I could see was the top of the rail and light and I was struggling."

The older kids pulled Dan out, and DJ called 911. 

"Whenever he went inside, I grabbed my dad's arm and held him," said Dan’s other son, Mike.

Dan broke his neck and crushed his spinal cord.

The 44-year-old is now paralyzed from the chest down. 

"The fear that I won't be able to take care of him. You know, he wants to come home, and I want that for him, but right now I cannot," said Dan’s wife Cheryl.

Cheryl is overwhelmed.

She has more than $100,000 in hospital bills for eight days when her husband didn't have insurance.

Her biggest worry, though, is her kids.

"I'm trying to be there for my mom to help around the house, but sometimes I forget that everything's happened," said their daughter, Ashley.

And those "before" memories of how their dad used to be are the most painful.

Nothing will ever be the same for this family, and Dan has a long road ahead.

“I keep telling him his life's not over. It's just different,” said Cheryl.

Physical therapy will hopefully get Dan to a point where he can do some kind of work, possibly even drive.

Dan said his family and friends motivate him.

“I'm appreciative of all the people who supported me," he said.

If you’d like to help out the Hika family, donations can be sent to:

The Dan Hika Fund
c/o CGH Federal Credit Union
651 Fourth Avenue
New Kensington, PA 15068   

They also can be sent directly through PayPal to cherylnpgh@comcast.net.

Click here to visit Dan’s Facebook page with pictures and updates on his progress.