A promising 11-year-old Laguna Beach surfer is in a medically induced coma after suffering a serious head injury while snowboarding with his family in Oregon.
Brayden Belden went off a 35-foot jump at Mt. Bachelor on Feb. 20 and caught an edge while landing and smashed head-first into the ground, his father, Matt, said in an interview Wednesday.
The Top of the World Elementary School fifth-grader was flown to Bend, where doctors told the family he may have only hours to live. Matt said a priest greeted them in the hospital hallway.
Doctors stabilized Brayden for a flight to Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, where experts could treat him with proper equipment.
“He’s cheated death,” Matt said, crediting his son’s helmet with helping to ease the blow.
Brayden’s brain swelling appears to have “topped out” and he is tolerating his medications, Matt said. However, he is still in critical condition.
“It’s been the most traumatic event of my life,” Matt said. “A father isn’t supposed to bury his son. He’s my best friend — I love him so much.”
A family friend created a GoFundMe page to help the family with medical costs. As of Wednesday evening, it had raised nearly $113,000 from more than 1,460 people in the past five days.
Professional surfer Kelly Slater shared the GoFundMe link on his Instagram account.
Matt said the financial and emotional support has helped the family focus on “what’s really important.”
Brayden ranked second in the 2016-17 season of Explorer Super Groms in the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. and last year won the boys’ division of the Brooks Street Surfing Classic, a surf contest in Laguna Beach.
He is a team rider for Aliso Viejo-based surfing brand Vissla, for which he works as a “local influencer” and helps promote products through contests and products, said Keegan Fong, media marketing manager for the brand.