Fargo couple starting over after life-threatening accident at Lake Lizzie

DENVER - A little over two months ago - the Fourth of July on Lake Lizzie in Minnesota Lakes Country - a dive into 6 feet of water he'd made a hundred times before turned out to be Ethan Parmer's .

A new beginning
Ethan Parmer, 23, of Fargo, was paralyzed in a July 4 swimming accident on Lake Lizzie and is undergoing rehab at a Denver hospital. Friends and family of the soon-to-be groom, who is pictured here with his fiancee Courtney Claus, are holding a fundraiser to help with his medical expenses Thursday, Sept. 12. Special to The Forum

DENVER – A little over two months ago – the Fourth of July on Lake Lizzie in Minnesota Lakes Country – a dive into 6 feet of water he’d made a hundred times before turned out to be Ethan Parmer’s .

To Parmer, the dive that shattered four vertebrae isn’t just the dive that made him a quadriplegic, changing his life forever and that of his soon-to-be wife, Courtney Claus.

It’s the dive that, in his own words, made him reborn.

“The little things, like writing your own name again,” said Parmer via phone from his room at Craig Hospital in Denver, where he’s undergoing rehabilitation. “You’re like a big baby. It’s really like you’re reborn.”

Parmer recalls everything about the accident, which happened when he made a shallow dive off a dock into what he thought was 5 to 6 feet of water and broke his neck.


“Face down in water, couldn’t move my arms or legs,” he said. His fiancée, her sister, and another person finally noticed six or seven minutes later that he wasn’t moving and pulled him out.

Parmer and his father, Steve, have been at Craig Hospital for about a month, since Ethan decided after surgery at Sanford to go to the renowned facility for spinal cord injury treatment. Insurance didn’t didn't cover the air ambulance, so Parmer’s parents are paying for that out of their own pocket.

“I’m going with you and I won’t leave without you,” Steve Parmer remembers telling his son.

They’re supposed to head home to Fargo on Oct. 11, with no real idea from doctors how much movement Ethan Parmer may regain.

So far, he has some feeling in his thumb and forefinger, and much of the strength in his arms. That’s what he’s earned after a month of exhausting rehab that starts at 7 every morning and goes sometimes until 5 p.m.

“Well, he’s strong – of course he played baseball and football and hockey,” said his father. “His attitude to this thing has been absolutely outstanding. I don’t know how he’s done it, to be honest.”

Ethan Parmer attributes much of his progress to his support system, which includes Claus, who’s been packing up their apartment to move into his parents’ home when he returns. His mother is working now with contractors to fit out the family home with broader doors to accommodate Parmer’s wheelchair.

Harder on the bride to be than the move are the miles between the couple. Plans for the wedding set for next June had, fortunately, already been begun.


“We have a lot of it planned – we have put some of it on hold,” Claus said. “I mean, I’m not going wedding dress shopping right now.

“It’s not the life we planned, but we’ll have to make it a good one anyway,” Ethan Parmer.

To help pay for expenses, a benefit raffle, silent auction and spaghetti feed are scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday at Big D’s, 1515 42nd St. S.W., in Fargo.


- See more at:

What To Read Next
Get Local