Inspiration Comes In Waves For Lifeguard Who Lost Part Of Her Hand

Megan Misurelli feels alive at the beach and has a profound connection to the water. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  MANAHAWKIN – Megan Misurelli, 22, has always felt a profound connection to the water, finding a sense of sanctuary within its depths. However, the 2023 Albright College graduate also understands the immense power the aquatic world holds, where tranquility and danger coexist.

  As an accomplished competitive swimmer for both Donovan Catholic and Albright College, Misurelli’s bond with the water ran deep. Her relentless pursuit of excellence and disciplined commitment clearly demonstrated the young woman’s unwavering determination and resilience.

  Beginning in the summer of 2020, Misurelli decided to put her affinity for the water and her desire to help people to work. She went through rigorous training to join Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol as a lifeguard. She was thrilled to return to the same position in 2021 and has been back every summer since.

  Misurelli encountered a major twist of fate on July 5, 2021, one of the busiest beach days of the season. As a result of a hurricane swell, rip tides emerged, causing a number of swimmers to be pulled towards the buoys and away from the watchful eye of the lifeguards.

  Fearlessly charging into the water with a rescue board, Misurelli brought in two sets of swimmers to the shallow end as she headed out for a bigger group.

  With her focus intent on ensuring the safety of others, Misurelli didn’t realize she was bleeding profusely. A razor-sharp strap on the fiberglass board had ruthlessly severed a portion of the top of her right hand.

  Misurelli still finds some of the events that followed to be a bit uncanny. Although her sister Melissa was a lifeguard in Ship Bottom, she just happened to be in Harvey Cedars when the accident happened. Somehow, her parents made it from Manahawkin to LBI in just seven minutes.

  “A plastic surgeon who lives on the beach I was guarding that day called my mom,” shared Misurelli. “He said he heard what happened and wanted to help.”

  According to Misurelli, Dr. Frank Cimminello made arrangements for her to meet with one of his partners, a hand surgeon. Two operations later and lots of physical therapy have resulted in a return to complete mobility.

Megan Misurelli didn’t let a tragic injury stop her from pursuing her wish to help others and will be starting medical school in August. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  From the beginning, Misurelli made it clear she had no intentions of being a victim. She returned to the swim team as soon as she had the go-ahead. The injury required the determined young woman to initially use her fist as she did the freestyle stroke. Misurelli also wasn’t allowed to dive into the water because of the pressure. Other swimmers were four body lengths ahead of Misurelli when the races first started.

  “That season I was undefeated all year,” shared Misurelli. “And I couldn’t even dive in.”

  As if excelling at one sport wasn’t enough, Misurelli decided to take up tennis and made the varsity team. Amazingly, she’d only played before with her family as a pastime during COVID.

  Meanwhile, Misurelli devised a way to make sure she turned in her academic papers on time. The challenge was figuring out how to type them with a 20 pound cast on her dominant hand that went all the way up to her shoulder.

  “I would type with my left hand, and voice audio everything,” Misurelli said. “It all took an unbelievably long time, but I was determined to get it done.”

  Despite facing a major challenge that could have changed the course of her life, Megan refused to let the incident define her. Instead, she drew upon its power to propel herself towards a future full of promise and possibility.

  The young woman not only received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry and biotechnology, but she also authored and presented several research papers and was selected by the president of Albright College to give a keynote address at graduation.

  Misurelli spoke of the challenges she encountered as a result of the accident. The young woman also told a story that summed up the reasons she equated wishes and flying as a metaphor for her life’s journey in the present time.

  “I slowly retaught myself things I believed were innate behaviors,” shared Misurelli. “In short, I had to learn how to fly again. So, I started over. Trauma, I’ve learned, makes you intensely aware of the present moment in slow time and allowed me to appreciate everything.”

  As she continued speaking at the commencement, she said that a wise man once told her that in this life, each of us are born twice.

  “The first birth is the day you were born,” Misurelli continued. “The second birth is the day you find your purpose.”

  The next time she flies again will be in August as she heads to Saint James School of Medicine in Anguilla. The journey comes with a clear purpose in mind – to fulfill a strong woman’s calling as a doctor in a third world country, where she can provide essential assistance to underserved communities in need.