Matthew Raynor is still trying to figure out what happened exactly three months earlier, on April 18, the day he drowned. He was rescued, but is paralyzed from his chest down, with limited use of his arms and hands.
A commercial fisherman and Hampton Bays local, Raynor, known to his friends as Matty Ray, was diving into the waves at Towd Point in North Sea. “It was cold, almost like a polar plunge,” he said. “It was a moon tide, so the tide was high — really high.”
He has to stop for a minute to collect himself.
The diving was good — good enough that Raynor went to get his friend, Jerome Lucani, and then went back to Towd Point for more. It was a good thing that Lucani was there, because, for whatever reason — the moon tide, the wind causing shifting sands — things went horribly wrong for Raynor.
“It was cold, it was windy,” he said. “The wind was with the tide, so the tide was really rushing out — honestly, it was kind of a cool experience. And I know that channel, I used to launch my boat out of there all the time during the scallop season. I thought I knew where the sand was, I was positive, but I guess I was wrong.”
On his next dive, he doesn’t remember hitting his head, “I just remember opening my eyes and thinking, ‘Oh f-ck, I’m f-cking paralyzed, I’m totally paralyzed.”
Raynor counted on Lucani rushing in but “he thought I was just kidding,” Raynor recalled. “I could see the bottom; it’s really clear in April. All I could do was move my wrist a little bit and turn my head. And then I passed out. So, I drowned.”
His near-death experience included thoughts like, “Man, that was a crazy 29 years, but it was good.”
“My neck was totally shattered, it was C3 through C7,” he said. “I’m still so surprised. Sh-t, man,” he said. “It sucks. I’m like a prisoner in my own body.”
Anyone who knows Raynor, or checks his Facebook page, will see that besides his travels on the water for work, he enjoys exploring new places and relishes new experiences. As an avid photographer, he has captured moments of both work and play — glimmering oceanscapes, boisterous waves, shots of ships and fish and more, sharing his life in pictures.
He confessed earlier that he has good days and bad days. Today is not a good day. Raynor has been running a fever, on and off, for at least 36 hours, experiencing an infection that made him shiver uncontrollably. After countless fusions and surgeries, he’s only been home since June 27, and he’s having problems regulating his body temperature. Plus, since the insurance is running out, there is no more physical therapy. “The health insurance has been terrible,” he said. “They gave us a really uncomfortable bed. That was a nightmare for a couple of weeks. They basically have given us nothing.”
In fact, the case has yet to be opened. “I’m worried he’s regressing,” said his mother, Jane Raynor, a nurse practitioner. She’s doing pretty much everything on her own right now.
As far as feeling, “I can’t move my fingers,” Raynor said. “I can kind of feel my thumb and my pointer finger. I can feel that my legs are uncomfortable if I’ve been in one spot for too long, which is actually just annoying and not very helpful.”
He doesn’t have a lot more information about his prognosis. Right now, it’s one day at a time.
As happens out here, the community has rallied to support Raynor, mostly through his brother Jonathan’s Go Fund Me page (which is at about one-third of what’s needed), and through Heart of the Hamptons, which has provided a bed and “the Maserati” of pulley systems, said Raynor’s mother. A local contractor who wishes to remain anonymous renovated the bathroom so that Raynor can sit in the shower.
But there is so much more needed. A van modified to suit Raynor’s needs costs over $40,000, plus whatever continuing care and PT he may need, a home health aide, along with medications and possible stem cell therapy to help him regain more mobility.
Raynor’s girlfriend, Jackie Maloney, has put together a benefit this weekend at the Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays. “Get Matty Ray Back On The Bay” will be held on Saturday, July 27, from 6 to 10 PM, with a $25 admission. Along with food from Maple Tree BBQ Smokehouse, live music, a raffle, and a Chinese auction, there will also be an opportunity to buy art by Raynor and others. There’s a Facebook event page for the fundraiser.
For those who can’t make it on Saturday, there’s the Go Fund Me page, “Help Matthew Raynor recover from a spinal injury,” or art can be purchased on Etsy at the jackiemaloneyart store, and all the proceeds go to Raynor’s recovery. And there’s Raynor’s own artwork, nature and nautical landscapes, available on his website at www.matthewraynor.com.
“It’s hard to stay positive right now,” Raynor said. “I’ll be honest. It really is.”