Jason McCaffrey was injured in an accident in Portland Harbour and taken to Dorset County Hospital in an ambulance after managing to drive to Weymouth Community Hospital’s minor injuries unit.
Doctors in Dorchester told him he had not broken any bones and discharged him with painkillers but when Mr McCaffrey travelled to Ireland three days later he was in ‘horrific pain’.
After a scan, doctors at the Royal Victoria Hospital specialist spinal unit in Belfast discovered four broken vertebrae and a cracked sternum – chest bone – and he underwent two emergency operations.
Mr McCaffrey, 38, of Lanehouse in Weymouth, said: “Unfortunately it was not diagnosed immediately by the local hospital. They released me with some painkillers and said I had not broken any bones.
“The fact of the matter is when I went into Dorchester hospital I was walking around and just had a little numbness in my fingers.
“Nine out of 10 times someone with a spinal injury would not be walking around.
“The X-ray immediately afterwards may not have been clear enough to illustrate the fractures in my neck.
“Not until I reached Belfast in horrific pain three days later, did doctors do a CT scan and find that I had broken four vertebrae and a cracked sternum.”
Mr McCaffrey, who is the reigning European kite speed sailing champion and last year’s winner of Weymouth Speed Week, is now recuperating in Co Antrim at his girlfriend’s parents’ home.
The accident occurred when his board strap broke while he was doing kite loops in Portland Harbour and he was lucky not to have drowned.
Mr McCaffrey said: “I flew backwards, hit the seabed and my head went so far forwards that my chin cracked my sternum.
“As I came up the kite pulled me forward and the board flew up and knocked me out momentarily.
“By the time I got to the beach, helped by a windsurfer and a kitesurfer friend, I was punch drunk.
“I was staggering about and thinking ‘What on earth hit me?’ “It was the most painful experience of my life.”
The operations involved bone grafts from his pelvis being put between vertebrae and two titanium rods, 12 screws and brackets placed in his neck.
Mr McCaffrey, whose company JACE Ltd is currently under contract at RSRL Winfrith, is ‘incredibly thankful’ to be alive and plans to return to the borough in early November.
He has vowed to be kitesurf again and to compete in next year’s Weymouth Speed Week.
He said: “The way I see it, it’s unlucky it’s happened but I’m incredibly thankful that I’m still walking and can use my arms.
“The worst cases would have been that I either drowned in the harbour or became a quadriplegic.
“In both of the operations there was a one in 300 chance that I would lose the use of my legs and possibly my arms as well.
“I’ve got quite a lot of physio to go through.”
A spokesman for Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “For reasons of patient confidentiality, the trust is unable to comment on individual cases.”