Injured surfer Brian Hart healing and ready to go home months after hitting Steamer Lane cliff

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Santiago Hart, left, and Brian Hart stand with their hydrofoil boards in Santa Cruz. Brian Hart was hurt while surfing a south swell at Steamer Lane in July. (Hart family -- Contributed) By Michael Todd, Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ, CA - Brian Hart, the father of professional surfer Santiago Hart, is expected to return home Oct. 2 as he continues to heal after crashing into a cliff at Steamer Lane on July 14.

Santiago, 15, was surfing with his dad shortly before Brian Hart went under a wave to avoid another surfer and was swept into the rock wall about 1:50 p.m. off Lighthouse Point. Hart, who was treated in the intensive-care and respiratory-care units, was upgraded for physical rehabilitation at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in recent weeks, said Veronica Hart, his wife.

The family, which relies on Brian Hart’s income from Hartwood Floor Company, has had help from contractors maintaining the company’s jobs. Support also has been generated by a fundraiser that amassed more than $57,000 and Hearts for Hart, a fundraiser Sunday afternoon at Haut Surf Shop in Westside Santa Cruz.

Brian Hart, whose progress allowed for his tracheotomy breathing support to be removed, was able to speak hourly via Facetime on a tablet with his friends and supporters.

Hart, 53, bruised his spine, fractured vertebrae, tore ligaments in his back and was unconscious shortly after he hit the cliff, Veronica Hart said. Santiago, who was trained in CPR by his sponsor, Volcom, had just gotten out of the water when his mother, Veronica, alerted him that his father needed help and he rushed to initiate resuscitation.

While he was unconscious, he had an “out-of-body experience,” Veronica Hart said.

“He is just grateful to be alive,” Veronica Hart said. “He tells my son he doesn’t want him to be afraid of surfing at the Lane because it was just an accident.”

Her husband had a “huge gash in his head” but no skull fractures, Veronica Hart has said. He was conscious by the time he was taken to Dominican Hospital and was gaining feeling in his upper body, she said.

Now, Brian Hart is recovering feeling in his legs and arms.

“He is in a lot of nerve pain, especially in his chest,” Veronica Hart said.

The bruised spine can take considerable time to heal, she said.

“We don’t have a time frame, per se,” Veronica Hart said.

Hart was surfing in a small south swell, which constrains riders to a narrow takeoff in front of the cliff. camera reels showed the wave that slammed him against the cliff. Other surfers in the water immediately paddled to help Brian Hart.

“The community support has been unreal,” Veronica Hart said. “Right now, we’re good. The medical expenses that we have to cover are going to be huge, just huge. We’re just trying to work with what we have right now. It’s a little scary sometimes, but we’re doing good so far.”

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