What started as a dream getaway in Panama has changed the life of a Winnipeg paramedic who was paralyzed in a diving accident.

Alex Petric, 28, and his girlfriend, Meagan Minaker, were four days into their vacation in the Bocas Del Toro area when on March 4, he decided to dive into what he thought was deep water.

"It was an impulsive moment," he told CBC News on Thursday. "I just I misjudged it … looked at the water, it appeared deep."

Petric said he knew as soon as he dove into the water that he was paralyzed. He couldn't feel his legs.

"I was totally in shock. I couldn't think of anything else but life in a wheelchair, how my life is changed from this moment," he recalled.

"I just stared at the sky and Meagan took care of me in the water."

Minaker, who is also a paramedic, jumped into the water right away to help Petric.

"I could slip my hand down his back, and so I instantly knew that there was a fracture there," she said.

"So I was really on top of making sure that nobody manipulated him in a way that would cause his injury to be more serious."

Doctors have told Petric that he will never walk again, but he is optimistic.

His family and friends have set up a website, Help Alex Heal, to gather support and donations towards sending Petric to a spinal cord recovery clinic in California.