While death by drunken misadventure has been a tragic feature of summers on the water in Estonia, this summer has been especially bad in terms of spinal cord injuries caused by diving before checking depth.
Seven young men - most healthy and in their prime - have already ended up in the neurological rehabilitation hospital in Haapsalu since the season began, compared to 10 last year. Other than a few cases in which the victim was pulled from the water too late, their cases are the worst of the lot. The path to recovery is slow, with basic movements having to be relearned. Few will walk again.
Alcohol, of course, also figures partly as a factor. So does lack of public awareness, according to administrators at the hospital. Kadri Englas, the development director at the Rehabilitation Center in Haapsalu, said she was shocked at seeing a clip on commercial TV station Kanal 2, which showed a St. John's Day celebration, with young men jumping over a bonfire (a tradition) directly into a shallow body of water (not a tradition). "I was waiting for some warning message, but no. It just showed it from the angle of how fun it was."
Priit Eelmäe, the director, says the number of spinal cord traumas has decreased with each year, as the number of diving-related cases stays constant.
The number of all wheelchair bound patients, regardless of underlying condition, on the waiting list for inpatient care at the Rehabilitation Center is 230. The line for outpatient services is 1,281. Each new patient with a spinal cord injury costs the state 18,000 euros on average over the first six months.