Jake Davis, From Up And Coming To A Near Fatal Spinal Disorder
"I don't know if I'll ever surf the way I used to, but I don't know how much that matters. "
Ten months ago, Jake Davis, younger, blonder of brother of Luke Davis, was rushed into emergency surgery to cauterise an out-of-control blood vessel that was strangling his T1 through T4 vertebrae.
Suffering from a rare disorder called Spinal Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), for months he had been experiencing crippling pain in his back, neck and head. The symptoms were further exacerbated after he suffered a wipeout in Hawaii in the fall of 2015 that drove him head first into the reef. Eventually he was diagnosed with AVM by Dr Robert Bray, who had discovered the disorder ten years prior. When Dr Bray cut into Jake’s back it was only the 33rd time he’d performed the operation.
Today, Jake has good days and bad days. And while Dr Bray undoubtedly saved his life, the agony remains.
“On a scale of one to ten, sometimes the pain is an 800,” confides Jake. “It feels like my spine is going to explode while I’m being electrocuted.”
Nearly losing one's life is enough to give anyone a different outlook on living.
Jake’s career was on the up before this all went down. His approach is like the love child of Luke Egan and Tanner Gudauskas—goofy as that may sound. Now, at a spry 20 years old, he’s happy just to take his friend’s dog for a walk.
“Someday, when I get through this, I want to make as much money as I can and just help people,” he says—a dramatic shift in course for the shit-hot-grommet from two years ago.
“That’s what this has taught me,” he continues. “Life’s not about material things. It’s not about contest results or sponsors. It’s about appreciating the time you have with the people around you. It’s about giving back and service. I could be dead right now. I’ve got a lot of work to do while I’m here.”
A couple weeks ago one of Jake’s friends, a San Clemente surfer by the name of Shon Miller, went out for a quick session at the pier. The surf was small, crumbly and not very inviting, but he suited up and paddled out anyway.
“Jake was standing in the water up to his shoulders in just his trunks,” says Shon. “I asked him what he was doing and he said it was the only thing that helped his nerves calm down. After running into him I knew it all happened for a reason. I knew had to do something.”
Ever seen a quiver that's so heartbreaking?
Miller, who’s the founder of BeachConservation.com, rallied. Over the last week, he’s thrown together a fundraiser in San Clemente (at Hapa J’s on January 31). It’s a Taco Tuesday/birthday party for Jake with a silent auction featuring surfboards from …Lost, works from local artists, et. al. Proceeds from taco sales and the auction will go to help cover Jake’s myriad medical expenses. The family has also set up a fundraising site online (if you'd like you can help out here) and Miller has set up a fundraiser on his site at www.beachconservation.com.
“I’m figuring it out, but I have a long way to go with the therapy and rehab,” says Jake. “I can’t exercise because anything that puts stress on my core freaks out my nervous system. It affects my brain in some very serious ways. My short-term memory is shot. I can’t even read or watch TV because of how it affects the nerves in the back of my eyes. I have to keep myself distracted otherwise I’d go crazy.”
Jake’s happy to say he’s finally off the pain killers the doctors had prescribed him and is dealing with his ailment more holistically. Sticking to a strict diet, he’s cut sugars and carbs completely out of his diet, and also sees solutions like a hyperbaric chamber as possibilities. Still, he worries his muscles are just atrophying away because he can’t workout or surf without going to level "800" pain.
“You’re just going through life, doing your thing, then something like this happens,” says Jake. “But I’ve learned and grown a lot. If you can hang on, sometimes there’s a silver lining to even the darkest clouds.”
“One day at a time. Appreciate the small things. Be positive. Keep moving,” he says when asked how he copes.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to surf the way I used to, but big picture, I don’t know how much that matters,” he continues with beyond his years wisdom. “Like I said, I could be dead. I’ve got to make the most of whatever time I have.”