It started as a family vacation with their two kids to celebrate Wing and Jackie Woo’s 20th wedding anniversary, but it all changed in an instant.
One week ago, on June 24, Wing and his 14-year-old son Tony were enjoying the Maui surf, the first full day of their vacation, when a rogue wave slammed Wing into the sand leaving him unconscious, unresponsive, and in cardiac arrest. Tony, uninjured, rushed to his father’s side and immediately began CPR. After several tense minutes he was able to restore his father’s pulse, and emergency personnel evacuated the still-unconscious Woo to Maui Memorial Hospital.
Tossed about by the extreme turbulence, Woo had ingested large amounts of sand and seawater, and doctors quickly identified this as the primary threat to his life. They put all efforts into stabilizing him, and for three extremely tense days he remained in a coma while doctors and family feared for his life. The outcome was anything but certain.
Woo has lived in the area all his life, and has deep roots in the community. A graduate of Des Moines’ Mount Rainier High School, he served both as a Burien City Councilmember and Mayor of Burien before moving to Edmonds. A 32-year veteran officer with the King County Sheriff’s Department, now assigned to the City of Shoreline, Woo and his family are well-known to neighbors living near Edmonds’ Hickman Park.
“He’s a great neighbor, husband and father,” said Ron Steinman, who lives across the street. “He’s involved in so much community work, especially with young people. He’s influenced many to stay off drugs, and shares his knowledge freely. He probably taught his son the CPR skills that saved his life last week!”
The Rev. Phil Assink, pastor of Faith Community Church located just around the corner from Hickman Park, echoes these sentiments. “I can’t think of another person who is so highly regarded by his neighbors,” he said. “Wing is a true pillar of the community.”
This vacation was a chance to celebrate a family milestone, share quality time with the children, and enjoy the Hawaiian beaches. They had barely arrived before tragedy struck.
To the relief of all, Wing emerged from his coma on Monday, stable enough to breathe on his own and undergo further testing. While he had no sensation below the shoulders, he was able to speak and wiggle his fingers and toes. An MRI revealed good brain and heart activity, but showed considerable swelling on his spine, leading doctors to quickly determine the immediate need to transport him to Seattle’s Harborview Trauma Center.
With 3,000 miles of open ocean separating Woo from Seattle, doctors and family initiated arrangements for air transport in a state-of-the-art medevac flying ambulance, staffed with a full complement of medical professionals equipped to administer care enroute.
But there was one big problem. This service costs $65,000. And that would be just the beginning, as the family faces the prospect of countless additional medical expenses unpaid by insurance throughout the long road to recovery.
And then came the miracle.
As word of Woo’s plight spread in the local community, friends, neighbors and coworkers rallied to help. They set up a special bank account and a Go Fund Me site. A flood of news coverage spread the word further, and as of Friday morning, July 1, more than $125,000 had been raised, surpassing the original $100,000 goal. Contributions continue pouring in.
And late Thursday evening, June 30, the Medevac jet touched down at Boeing Field. Woo was placed in an ambulance and rushed to Harborview, where he’s being evaluated and treated by the spinal trauma team.
In addition to the GoFundMe site, contributions may be mailed to or made directly at Heritage Bank, 20333 Ballinger Way N.E. in Shoreline, or any other Heritage Bank branch (branch locations here). Checks should be made payable to: Catherine Marino FBO Sgt.Wing Woo Acct # 10***3106.
On Friday morning, neighbor Ron Steinman conveyed the family’s sentiments to My Edmonds News. “The family wants to express the gratitude and appreciation to the community for their overwhelming support through their prayers and financial support. They are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love.”
— By Larry Vogel