Mia Belluche’s holiday season started off just as you’d expect for a 20-something beach bum from Oahu’s sleepy east shore—by setting off for a Thanksgiving weekend surf trip to Kauai.
But the holiday would soon take a dramatic turn for the worse. The day before Thanksgiving, a freak surfing accident sent Belluche to the hospital with a punctured right eye. Doctors were unable to repair the damage to her eye and ocular nerves, leaving no choice but to remove it completely.
One would think that after losing an eye while surfing, the last thing Belluche would want to do is surf, but she insisted on jumping back in the water again as soon as she got clearance from her doctors. “I couldn’t imagine just never surfing again—that would be crazy,” she says.
Since the accident, she has maintained an enormously positive attitude, and says she is grateful for her life despite the recent trial. “In reality and the grand scheme of life I consider myself a very lucky person,” she says. “The world we live in is full of so much pain and loss that there is no possible way I could complain about my situation.”
On Jan. 12, just six weeks after the accident, Belluche resumed her normal life of sunshine and waves, proving that real surfers never stop surfing, and offering everyone an inspiring road to follow when we run into our own barriers in life.
GrindTV caught up with her to see how her life post-accident has been.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us about the day of the accident?
Thanks for having me! Well to start off, it was the most beautiful day on the North Shore of Kauai. We decided to surf at Secret’s beach. I had been to this beach for my first time two afternoons before—the waves were glassy, good-sized, and we surfed till dark. On this day the beach was absolutely pristine and the swell had dropped, so I was stoked for some small glassy surf and a beach day for our friend’s birthday. I relaxed on the beach for a bit before grabbing my board to go out. The accident happened only a few waves into the session. I was on a small right-hander and as it came onto the sandbar I just bailed my board. The next thing I knew I was standing on the sand and my board popped back at me from the side and nailed me super hard. The sound I heard in my head and the instant pain was definitely not a good feeling. I immediately felt super light-headed and instinctively covered the right side of my face with my hand. I raised both hands to wave for help from my boyfriend, and then looked at my right hand and it was just full of blood. Right away I just started talking myself through it like, “Oh sh#t, deep breathes, keep it together, make it to shore, don’t pass out.” No joke, I was saying it out loud to myself. Luckily my boyfriend was pretty close, and he was able to get to me quickly and help me in. It was pretty incredible and a little embarrassing how everyone on the beach immediately flocked over to me. There was a nurse, and a man with a canteen full of ice, and others willing to help in any way they could. There wasn’t much we could do besides start moving. I am so appreciative of everyone who helped me that day.
What was going through your mind?
When the accident happened all I could think about was that we were so far away from the car and hospital. To get to the surf break we basically hiked down a pretty steep path for five minutes and then trekked across sand and rocks for another 10 minutes or so. Knowing that I was too light-headed to walk I was dreading the thought of how long it was going to take for me to get help and out of pain. My boyfriend was such a champ and piggy-backed me across the beach. Thankfully someone called an ambulance and they were able to drive right down to the beach via a private road and the paramedics met us and strapped me to a spinal board and everything. My concern was never really on the severity of my accident because I didn’t know where exactly the board had hit me. I hadn’t processed that it hit me directly in the eyeball. I was pretty out of it, and all I knew was that my head and my right eye region hurt really badly and I was super nauseous. I guess I just assumed the doctors were going to be able to fix whatever was wrong and that I just had to get to the hospital as quick as I could.
What adjustments have you had to make in your life?
I haven’t had to make too many adjustments to my everyday life besides staying out of the water through the healing process. I can drive and do everything I could before the accident. There are a few things that I am having to get used to like chopping food, making jewelry, and reading for an extended period of time, but with time these tasks will be as easy as ever.
What has the recovery process been like?
At each of my doctors visits so far, my Ophthalmologist says that I couldn’t be healing any better or quicker. It’s actually been hard for me to grasp that I am in “recovery mode.” I have been doing pretty much everything I normally would, minus going in the ocean and hard physical activity. I have been going to the beach, working, driving, etc.
How have you stayed positive during your recovery?
I don’t know why, but staying positive after the accident has just come really naturally. Yes, it was a heavy injury and extreme outcome, but I realize it was a random accident and there wasn’t much that could have prevented it. Once the accident happened, it happened. There was nothing I could do but move forward and heal as quickly as possible. My family and friends were very concerned and staying positive was a way for me to assure everyone that I was OK.
Have you taken anything positive out of this experience?
There is always something to be thankful for in every situation, no matter how terrible it seems. In reality and the grand scheme of life I consider myself a very lucky person. The world we live in is full of so much pain and loss that there is no possible way I could complain about my situation. An eye is just an eye; I am so blessed for what I do have in life—I still have one eye with perfect vision, which I now consider my portal to life. My family and friends are so loving and supportive, the place that I live in and have gotten to call home for my whole life is just incredible, and what I do for a living is a dream. Out of this experience I have learned to be so grateful for everything I have.
What has helped you most through this tough time?
The immense amount of love and support that I have been blanketed with by my boyfriend, family, and friends since the accident has definitely made a huge difference. Knowing that many people are concerned makes me want to stay happy and positive to show them I am OK and that everything is going to be OK. I do believe the healing process has been quickened by the positive energy I am surrounded by.
What would you say to another young person who had just suffered a similar traumatic injury?
I would have to say, “Don’t dwell on it!” This accident happened and there is nothing that can change that. Your goal now is to only look forward, heal quickly, and get back to being you as quickly as possible. If not for your own sake, do it for your loved ones, who I can guarantee are more concerned than you are about the situation.
Below is a video of Mia’s story and her first surf back since the injury.
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