ONLY ON ABC7NEWS.COM: A look at surfer Brian Hart's impressive progress after spinal injury

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It's nothing short of miraculous that surfer Brian Hart is out of bed, off a respirator and able to use his chin to control a special chair. Just nine weeks ago, he was left paralyzed below the neck after he crashed into rocks at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz while surfing on July 14.

It was his 15-year-old son Santiago, himself a well-known surfer, who was nearby and administered CPR and revived him, not knowing at first that it was his dad. Witnesses say his father was unconscious and unresponsive and was colorless.

"I came back," the 53-year-old told ABC7. "I was given a choice, and I came back because I heard my son calling me. I just couldn't leave my son and wife. And that's all I remember that day."

Adaptive technology is allowing Hart to use his chin and voice to operate his smartphone.

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"It motivates me to navigate through the phone and be able to look at Facebook or go to YouTube and watch movies," he said. "All that stuff you normally do and you appreciate it when you have your hands to do all that."

We had a surprise for Brian and his wife Veronica -- a stack of get well cards from ABC7 News viewers.

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"I never knew I had so many friends," he said.

Valley Medical Center is home to one of only two respiratory rehabilitation centers for spinal injuries in the country. Brian is excited that two weeks ago, he was able to start moving his thumb.

On Friday afternoon, he also noticed some leg movement for the first time.

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"We are still waiting and hoping and examining other muscles and other parts of his body for improved sensation, which would further improve his prognosis," said Dr. James Crew, chair of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Rehabilitation.

"We know that it's a slow recovery, and we're taking just one day at a time and enjoying what's happening," said Veronica Hart, Brian's wife.

A GoFundMe campaign to help the Hart family is still active. Go here if you'd like to help.

The Santa Cruz community is planning a fundraising event on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 23, at Haut Surf Shop in Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15, available at
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