Ponderosa High swimmer Zachary Pickett suffered a serious injury days before the start of the 2012-13 school year, leaving a void on the Shingle Springs’ campus.
Lifeguarding at Cameron Park Lake, the junior class president simply ran into the water and dove in to cool off, according to his dad Tod. Tragically, Zachary struck an unseen sandbar and the force of the impact crushed his seventh vertebrae and compressed into his spinal cord, causing permanent damage.
Instantly, Zachary lost feeling in his legs. Fellow lifeguard friends sprung into action, placed him on a backboard and called paramedics, who quickly responded. Hours later, Pickett was being treated by a neurosurgeon team at the UC Medical Center in Sacramento.
“The initial care he received from the lifeguards, paramedics to the surgeons in the immediate aftermath was phenomenal,” Tod said.
Zachary, who was later transferred to Shriner’s Hospital, has movement in his arms, fingers, upper torso and is breathing unassisted.
“We pray for a miracle but plan for the practical and right now … practical is that he’ll be in a wheelchair for an extended time,” Tod said.
Ponderosa’s outpouring of support for a fellow classmate began on the first day of school with a fundraiser. The next day a 20-foot poster signed by the student body was delivered to Zachary and, days later, a brand new iPad. The Oak Ridge water polo team also held a fundraiser.
“The community has been amazing and has blown my mind. Judy and I are both extremely appreciative and can’t thank the community enough,” Tod said.
Zachary was high point-earner for the Sierra Sharks in his age category at the recent league championships and recently passed all the requirements to be an Eagle Scout. He’s swam two varsity seasons for the Bruins, is on the water polo team and has also played soccer. His older brother Ryan is a scholarship swimmer for the University of Hawaii.
The Pickett family isn’t a stranger to important causes and, going forward, plan to rally around Zachary’s condition. Tod, the owner of Great Sports Pictures in Placerville, and his two sons all coach Special Olympics for Team El Dorado and Tod’s wife, Judy, is a well-known advocate in the region for breast cancer awareness.
Several of the family’s short-term goals are to get Zachary back into the water; have him return to next season’s swim finals and attend a Ponderosa football game.