Lake Michigan

Chicago man paralyzed in Lake Michigan diving accident 20 years ago returning to water this weekend

NBC Universal, Inc.

Lake Michigan is still a place of awe and adventure for Rob Heitz.

But in 2003, the lake almost ended his life.

A diving accident when he was 22 years old left Heitz with a spinal cord injury, paralyzing him from the neck down.

“I remember spitting out water and not being able to move,” he said.

Rob’s recovery journey would take place at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, where he spent 2 months.

“It was really difficult to get here – there was a lot of pain and challenge but I was also very lucky," Heitz told NBC Chicago.

20 years later, Rob is the rare case, now a recovered quadriplegic.

Last year, he made the infamous swim from Alcatraz Island across the San Francisco Bay to raise money for the foundation he started, called the Paralysis Foundation.

He’s also working on a documentary, titled "Escaping Paralysis."

This Saturday, on the 20th anniversary of his accident, Heitz plans to swim in Lake Michigan near the Chicago hospitals and medical staff that helped him recover.

Heitz will be swimming at Ohio Street Beach Saturday morning between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

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